Hearing & Balance
The physicians and staff of the ENT Group of Los Angeles have put together the following resources in order to better assist you.
Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced to protect the ear from damage and infections. It is produced in the ear canal and normally accumulates and then dries up and falls out of the canal. It rids the ear of dust or sand particles and repels water, which can cause infections. Without ear wax, our ears would be dry, itchy and unprotected.
Ear wax is made up of various different materials depending on materials found in the canal. The wax can be soft and almost liquid or firm and solid. It can consist of skin cells, bacteria and water. The production and clearing of ear wax is natural and self-sufficient, so cleaning should never be needed. However, ear wax tends to accumulate in the ear canal for a number of reasons. The ear canal may narrow from an infection, the wax may not be as soft or too much wax may have been produced. If an extreme amount of wax builds up, it may need to be cleaned, or lavaged, by your doctor. Ear drops may also be prescribed to soften the wax and allow it to be cleared out.
While Q-tips and other small objects are often used to clean out wax, they actually do more harm than good. Ear wax is formed in the outer part of the canal and long objects like Q-tips only push the wax further back into the ear. These objects can also perforate the eardrum and cause infections and more serious problems. To help soften ear wax, you should simply use two drops of mineral oil in each ear once a week. Talk to your doctor if you have recurrent ear wax problems.