Earwax Explained

    Earwax is the body’s natural way of protecting one of its most important senses. Cerumen is a waxy oil produced by the follicles and glands that line the ear canal. When the cerumen builds up and becomes hard it obstructs the ear canal and this is what we refer to as earwax.

    And yes, it has a very important purpose. When the wax first forms it accumulates on the tiny hair follicles in the ear and acts as a ‘sticky’ substance, trapping dust, pollen, bacteria and other foreign particles – preventing them from entering and potentially damaging the ear. The oily nature of the earwax prevents water from entering and irritating the inner ear and allows water to easily run out of the ear.

    There are times when the glands produce more oil than usual, increasing the amount of wax in the ear canal. This build-up can cause an obstruction, which is often the cause of partial hearing loss. If left untreated, total hearing loss can result, until the wax is removed.

    I would not recommend ear candling because it can cause serious injury. The overwhelming warnings from audiologists around the world cannot be ignored. Health practitioners use a procedure called irrigation to clear wax blockage by squirting fluid into the ear canal with the use of a syringe, forcing the wax or object out of the ear. It is important that a trained professional does this as the ear is very sensitive and damage can easily occur. Even though cotton buds (also known as earbuds or Q-tips) are easily accessible in every store, they can do more harm than good if not used correctly. The safest way to remove earwax from the ear canal is to use a cloth or tissue wrapped around your pinky.

    Doctors may also make use of a suctioning device to remove the wax, or use a small instrument if necessary.


    Hold a teaspoon containing a little olive or almond oil 30 cm above a bowl of hot water, allowing the steam to warm up the oil. DO NOT heat the oil in a pan or on the stove top or microwave. Using a syringe or dropper, ask someone to place only two or three drops into the ear canal to help soften the wax. Use cotton wool to keep the oil inside the ear canal, and to soak up excess oil. If the wax has not softened, does not fall out, or if you experience ongoing dizziness or pain, contact your practitioner for further assistance.

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