How to keep ears clear of wax
Wax is produced in the outer one third of the ear canal by wax glands and is the body’s antiseptic for ears, trapping dust, debris and bacteria.
Wax will naturally migrate out of your ears, but sometimes wax can gradually build up until eventually the ear is blocked.
New wax is soft, moist and light in colour, whereas wax that is lodged in the ear appears darker and is much harder thus preventing the natural movement of wax out of the ear. Occasionally, ear wax can build up to such an extent that it presses on the ear drum which can cause discomfort and ear pain.
Why does earwax build up?
There are a number of reasons for ear wax build up — these are a few of the most common factors:
- Using cotton buds, ear plugs, hearing aids or ear phones can result in a wax build up. In many cases, wax is pushed further down the ear preventing its natural movement, the wax then hardens stopping new wax from moving, thus causing a blockage.
- As people get older the ear wax produced by the body changes in consistency – it is generally harder and more sticky, meaning that a build up of wax is generally more common and can happen quickly.
- Narrow ear canals and excessive cilia (ear hair) can mean that wax easily gets trapped and is unable to move out of the ear effectively.
- Working in a very dusty or dirty environment can cause the ears to produce more wax in order to trap dust and debris and protect the ear.
How do I know if it’s wax?
Qualified health professionals such as GPS, Audiologists and Ear Care Nurses can confirm if wax is blocking your ears.
Indications that you may have a wax-related blockage can include:
- Difficulty hearing (things sound quieter than usual).
- Ear pain/ear ache, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears).
- Vertigo (dizziness).
- Your ears may also start to feel 'full' and itchy.
- If you wear a hearing aid, you may start to notice the hearing aid is whistling more than usual.