You put your finger in your ear and feel something nasty and sticky. This is known as earwax. Most of us find it completely gross. Sometimes the thought is since you have ear wax, you did not clean your ears. This is not the case and contrary to popular belief, ear wax is a good thing. Ear wax is one of those things in the body that we find gross and see no purpose for but in actuality serves a major purpose.
What Is Earwax?
Ear wax may also be called cerumen. Sometimes you hear the term cerumen impaction at the doctor. This simply means the impaction of earwax inside the ear canal. Ear wax plays a very important role in the ear. It is part of the ear’s defense system. Ear wax protects the ear from foreign bacteria, debris, water, and insects. Ear wax helps in cleaning the ear as well as lubricating the ear. Some people naturally make more ear wax than others. Having too much ear wax may seem like you will gain more protection, but it can create problems, specifically with hearing.
What Causes Earwax Impaction?
The more ear wax you make, the greater risk you have of getting wax impaction. Wearing hearing aids and earplugs a lot puts you at risk for ear impaction as well. When you think about cleaning your ears, the first thought is to grab alcohol and Q-tips. This is the worst thing you can do. Q-tips are bad because it pushes the wax further down into the ear canal. The wax ends up building to the point where sound becomes muffled. Sometimes it is not until this happens that you realize how important your ears are for balance. This impaction may cause dizziness as well as ringing in the ears. It may require a doctor’s visit to get the wax removed.
If you notice ear wax impaction, you should look for over-the-counter ear drops. The drops help dissolve the wax. When over-the-counter medications do not work, the doctor may have to use water and a syringe to rinse out the impacted wax. Once the wax is removed, you will feel much better. You will gain your balance back, and your hearing will be restored. Ear wax does not typically cause any damage or anything, so you do not have to worry about follow-up treatment.
If you thought ear wax was disgusting at first, maybe understanding the purpose of it will help you like it more. Everyone has ear wax and some people just has more than others. If wax becomes impacted, it can have a direct effect on your hearing and balance. Although ear wax is good for you, you still need to make sure you clean your ears so that it does not build up. If you are suffering from too much ear wax, get the treatment you need. Make sure your ears are open and clear.
Fort Worth Otolaryngologist Dr. Marc Dean is a Board Certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and practicing full time in private practice. Dr. Dean specializes Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and conditions and diseases of the ear, sinus, and disorders of the eustachian tube. Dr. Dean completed an Internship, in General Surgery and his Residency at Louisiana State University Health Science Center, where he now serves as Assistant Professor Otolaryngology/HNS. Dr. Dean is currently President and CEO of the Otorhinologic Research Institute. Contact Dr. Dean today on his profile or call 817-332-4060. Dr. Marc Dean was named Top10MD 2015 | 2016. Only 1 in 3 doctors succeed with this recognition in the United States.