Earwax is something familiar to all of us. Everyone has earwax for sure. The picture above is the dry earwax type (less common).
While the one below is the wet earwax type (more common).
Not all earwax needs removal.
- 0.1 Reasons for earwax removal include:
- 0.2 Why do we have earwax?
- 1 Home Remedies
- 2 When all else fails
Reasons for earwax removal include:
- Pain in the ears
- Feeling of blocked ears
- Reduced hearing or difficulty hearing when the surrounding is noisy
- Ringing sound in the ears
- Ears discharge
- Poor hearing in children causing difficulty hearing in school, which in turn affects school grades
If you have the above symptoms, then your earwax should be removed.
The best way to diagnose earwax is to get a doctor to look into your ears with a device called an otoscope and give you further advice.
Why do we have earwax?
Earwax is part of the normal protective function of the ears.
Earwax sit in the ear canal
Where do they come from since the ears are essentially a closed tunnel?
They are the shed skin from the eardrum that starts moving out added with the secretions from the glands1. When they work normally, the shed skin will move out and push the old wax out and it will drop out by themselves.
When earwax was analysed2, we found that they contain long chain fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated, alcohols, squalene and cholesterol. Basically in simple english, they came from your own body! We always used to think that it came from “somewhere out there”.
So why do some people have earwax that causes them pain, blocked ears or just doesn’t come out?
- They dig them.
- Yes! Quite counter-intuitive isn’t it?
- Digging sometimes push them in. Remember i just told you that the wax inside will slowly move out? Well digging disrupts this mechanism.
- They have narrow ear canals (ear canal stenosis) and sometimes if they are really very narrow, will require surgery.
- Their earwax type is more dry or more sticky than other people.
- Previous surgeries which change the characteristics of the ear lining, such as mastoidectomy.
I’m sure most people are familiar with this, generally can buy for less than a dollar at the nearest convenient store. Coupled with a pair of steady hands, good lighting and a obedient
victim patient, most wax can be easily removed. The safety and efficacy has not been studied in a formal clinical trial (please correct me if i’m wrong), but I’ve personally seen some problems with this. Sometimes the lining of the ears can be scratched or damaged which can be very painful and predispose to infections.
This is a real life example of a patient who tried to dig and ended up with a big red scratch inside the external ear canal. Not very nice.
Others have ended up with a big ear infection or a big pimple (the pinkish lump on the top left) (medical term: furuncle) which requires a visit to my clinic once every few days to place something in your ears.
The picture above is the early stage one, the upcoming up is a growing one (from another patient), while the last one belongs to another patient who came very very late and getting quite serious already.
The “Cotton bud”
The all time favorite cotton bud.
Generally would work for small amount of wax that is wet and quite outside or superficial. For deeper or other types of wax, this can generally push it further in. Also i have seen patients who gets ear infection after using these things.
I would NOT recommend anyone to use this, other for the purpose of giving doctors money to earn from cleaning your earwax which has been pushed in by this. See here for an example of what i mean.
I even had to remove the cotton bud that was left behind in the ear a few times, see here.
There were also some patients who tore their ear drum with the benign looking cotton bud.
Notice the tiny hole over the bottom right hand corner?
The same ear 1month later, he is lucky that it healed.
Nothing scares patients more than bleeding from your ears
There are various types of solutions that has been placed into patient’s ears. If you are interested you can click here. To me my personal “favorite” is still olive oil, safe and non toxic, seldom causes problems, also happens to have other uses (think: makeup remover, moisturiser). But please don’t use the one above or any cooking oil. Try to get a medical grade one from us or from the pharmacy or polyclinic.
The other solutions tend to make the wax expand and might cause more pain.
The ear spray
Recently there has been a few “ear sprays” over the counter. I do not recommend you using any one of them unless you really want to see us soon…
When all else fails
We will need to remove them for you with professional tools.