Earwax can be gooey and gross, and doesn’t usually get much respect. In fact, it is often considered to be a somewhat disgusting secretion. It is actually a very useful substance and helps to keep our ears healthy.
Earwax also known as cerumen is a combination of sebum, sloughed-off skin cells from inside of the ear, and secretions from the cerumenous glands in the outer ear canal.
Earwax comes in two types – wet and dry. The kind you have depends on genetics. People of North-eastern Asian descent, especially those from China or Korea, tend to have dry ear wax, while the earwax of people from other regions is wet.
Basic functions of earwax
Earwax is another of our body’s mundane, under-appreciated, yet totally amazing protective devices. Like eyelashes and nose hair, earwax shields our body from outside invaders, including dust, bacteria, and other micro-organisms that can get in and irritate, inflame, or infect.
Earwax lubricates the ear canal, which stops it from drying out in much the same way as tears lubricate our eyes. The lubrication not only prevents the ear from become itchy but also stops tiny cracks and crevices from forming on the wall of the canal. These crevices can easily trap bacteria, which could lead to an infection.
Thanks to earwax, our ears are self-cleaning. Earwax blocks our ear canals from foreign matters like dirt, bugs, bacteria, and water. The coating also helps fight off infections.
Whenever you move your jaw or chew, you help keep earwax churning slowly from the eardrum to the ear opening, where it will then either dry up, flake off, or fall out.
No trespass zone
Since ears are self-cleaning, we should never, ever stick anything in them! Anything at all. That includes those cotton-tipped swabs that seem perfectly designed to fit inside the narrow ear canal. Keep these swabs and any other objects, including your fingers, out of your ears. When you put something in your ear to scratch an itch or to attempt to remove wax, you risk pushing wax further into the ear, where it can become blocked.
Blocked earwax is one of the most common cause of hearing loss. This can happen if wax is pushed back toward the eardrum or if the ears produce more earwax than is needed. Symptoms of impacted earwax include earache, dizziness, feeling of fullness in the ear, a sensation that the ear is plugged, and tinnitus or ringing in the ear. Your ear may also itch, have an odour, or emit a discharge.
If you suspect that your ears are blocked by excess earwax, you can seek a doctor’s assistance in clearing it. It is usually a simple and comfortable procedure.
Having said all these and realizing that the so much loved feeling of cleaning the ear out with cotton bud is a sin (I know, right?), to achieve an overall well being, the ear health can not be neglected.