Health and Lifestyle

4 Things You Should Know About Earwax

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Earwax is not something we talk about in polite company, right? But it’s something everyone deals with, and it can give you insight into your general well-being, as well as alert you to ailments.

Here are four things we want you to know about earwax:

Earwax actually has a purpose.

Much like other bodily secretions, there is a reason our ears produce cerumen (that’s the technical term for earwax).

“Earwax is a natural barrier which prevents dirt and bacteria from entering the innermost parts of your ears. Because it is sticky, it collects microscopic debris which finds its way into your ear canal, much like flypaper traps insects. Without this defensive barrier, your inner ear would be at risk.”  (https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52679-What-you-need-to-know-about-earwax)

The color, scent  and texture indicate a few things.

There are two varieties of earwax, “wet” and “dry”. Generally speaking, dry earwax is limited to people of Asian descent and the elderly. If you have always had wet earwax, but it’s suddenly dry and flaky, it’s probably because you are getting older. But you should still schedule an assessment with a hearing care professional to be sure.

When it comes to color, it’s not quite as telling as snot – but if it’s green, or yellowish and watery, you might have an infection. You should definitely schedule an appointment.

If the earwax your ears secrete has a distinct, unpleasant smell, please schedule an assessment sooner, rather than later.  It’s a sign of a serious infection called “Chronic Otitis Media”, and it can cause other problems with your balance and hearing.

There ARE times when earwax should be removed – but cleaning your ears regularly is unnecessary.

That’s because earwax is actually doing the job of cleaning your ears.

“The cells inside the ear canal are unique in the human body – they migrate. “You could put an ink dot on the eardrum and watch it move over a few weeks and it would be ‘carried out’ by the movement of the cells.” according to Prof Shakeel Saeed at London’s Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear hospital.

If this didn’t happen the mini cul-de-sac of the ear canal would soon fill up with dead cells created by the natural process of skin shedding.

This movement also propels the wax – produced by the modified sweat glands which line the ear canal – towards the outside. It’s thought that normal movements of the jaw – through eating and talking – assist with this movement.” (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26527266)

But, as we said, there are times when earwax DOES need to be removed. You can try a DIY kit from a pharmacy, but if that doesn’t work, you can schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional to remove it for you.

During the winter, earwax can sometimes harden, causing a condition that forces the ear to grow an extra bone in an attempt to protect itself from the cold weather.

“This new bone growth constricts the ear canal, creating challenges for earwax to naturally leave the ear canal and thus, contributing to excessive earwax buildup.” (http://info.earwaxmd.com/blog/5-things-to-know-about-earwax-and-cold-weather)

The best way to prevent something like that happening to you is regular checkups with a hearing care professional to make sure neither phenomenon is happening for you.

Earwax isn’t an appetizing topic, but it’s an important function of the ear, and it’s one that people tend to worry about.

To find out if you need hearing aids, we can do an assessment and help you build a strategy that works best for you.

We can’t wait to help you gain a better hearing lifestyle. Here at Smithtown Hearing Services we are committed to better hearing and committed to you! Contact Smithtown Sayville Hearing Services at (631) 993-4719 today to set up an appointment.

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