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A Definitive Guide to Ear Wax Removal

Updated: Oct 19, 2022




Have you ever found your ears feeling clogged, your hearing muffled, and perhaps even that your equilibrium is off somewhat and you’re struggling to find your balance?


If so, the problem could be ear wax.


Now, to most, ear wax is seen as something detrimental, and a nuisance, and perhaps even somewhat disgusting, yet in reality it is the exact opposite. Ear wax is in fact beneficial, though too much of it can cause a variety of different ailments and issues, which we’ll look at a little later.

As beneficial as ear wax can be, it’s important that we have our ears cleaned regularly and that we extract excess amounts of ear wax as soon as we can. This is where we come into the picture.


Far too many people allow excess ear wax to build up, and then attempt to remove it themselves, which often only exasperates the problem. We’re going to take a look at the correct way to extract ear wax, and at why it’s so important to remove it as soon as possible.


Here is a definitive guide to ear wax removal.


What is ear wax?


First and foremost, before we can proceed any further, we first need to take a detailed look at what ear wax is.


To most, ear wax is the gunky yellow/brown substance found within your ears, that makes most people cringe and is viewed as something gross and disgusting. In truth, ear wax is there for a reason and is a very important substance.


Despite its name, ear wax isn’t actually made from the wax you’re familiar with, although you can actually make candles out of it, though we certainly wouldn’t recommend that you do so. Yuck.


Ear wax is produced within the outer canal of the ear and is created in order to form a protective coating to protect your eardrums from dirt, dust, and debris in general, which could damage the eardrums and potentially cause an infection.


Skin located within the outer canal of the ears is equipped with specialist glands that are responsible for creating the ear wax.


The technical term for ear wax, by the way, is Cerumen.


Once the ear wax has been produced, it will slowly and surely make its way throughout the outer ear canal, until it reaches the opening of your ear. Here, it will usually fall out, or it can be manually removed carefully, or simply just cleaned away when you wash.


Ear wax gets its waxy consistency from the combination of oil and sweat from the inner ear, which is then mixed with hair, dirt, dust, dead skin cells, and other forms of debris that cause it to clump together and harden.


Why do we need ear wax?


Okay, we’ve established that ear wax helps to protect the inner ear and the ear drum, but can dirt and debris really cause that many problems?


Well, yes, and when you combine that with the fact that the ears themselves are so sensitive, the importance of ear wax really does become apparent for a whole host of different reasons.


To begin with, ear wax is there to help moisturise the inner ears and keep the skin of the ear canals soft and hydrated, which in turn ensures that it is healthy. This will prevent skin rashes, itching, and irritation.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is the fact that ear wax is also enriched with powerful chemicals and active compounds that have been found to destroy harmful bacteria and fight off and prevent infections.


If you’ve ever experienced an ear infection before, you’ll know just how painful they can be and how much they can affect your everyday quality of life. Seriously, ear infections are awful, and take it from us, you don’t ever want to experience one.


Finally, ear wax serves as a protective barrier for the eardrum, against the detritus and debris caused by the outside world. Rather than airborne dust, dirt, and debris entering the ears and accumulating on and around the eardrum and damaging it, it gets stuck in the ear wax and cannot proceed any further.


What are the dangers of too much ear wax?


So, as you can see, ear wax is generally beneficial, but like most things in life, it does come at a cost.


Just the right amount of ear wax is indeed beneficial, but too much ear wax can be very dangerous and can affect your overall quality of life in a whole host of different ways.


Here’s a look at a few of the main dangers associated with too much ear wax.


Earache


One of the most common symptoms of excessive ear wax is an earache.


When ear wax is allowed to accumulate and build up in the ears, over time it can place the eardrums under a lot of pressure, and pressure within the ears will build up, causing earache.


The pain experienced will vary from person to person, as some people may simply experience a slight aching in the ears, whereas others will experience chronic pain that is borderline unbearable.


Feelings of ‘plugged’ ears


Another danger associated with too much ear wax is a feeling of plugged ears.


In a sense, the ears feel that way because that is what they are, as they are actually plugged up with ear wax.


Hearing loss


Another common symptom of excess ear wax, or compacted ear wax, is a loss of earing.


The reason for this is simply due to the fact that your ears are clogged with a layer of wax, which muffles sound and makes it harder to hear.


Itchiness


Finally, if you have an excess amount of ear wax, and/or compacted ear wax, this could result in itchiness within the ears.


Though this doesn’t sound too serious, it could potentially be something more serious as itchiness is often the warning signs of an imminent ear infection.


What’s the correlation between ear wax and tinnitus?


Now, some of you may be wondering why we didn’t include tinnitus as one of the many proven dangers associated with excess ear wax, and the reason why is that we’re going to look at the connection between ear wax and tinnitus in more detail now.


Tinnitus is a condition whereby people experience noises within the ears, despite there being no external causes.


More often than not, the noises experienced are ringing noises. In fact, the word itself is derived from the ancient Latin word for ‘ringing’, though some people experience a buzzing, hissing, whistling noise, or even a combination of different noises at once.


Tinnitus is not a disease and is therefore not life-threatening or particularly dangerous.


It is a symptom that comes about as a result of the auditory system and is typically caused as a result of an underlying condition.


Recent research, however, has found a direct link between ear wax and tinnitus.


Now, whereas most people will produce healthy amounts of ear wax, those that produce excess amounts, or who produce unusually dry cerumen, may be at a much higher risk of experiencing tinnitus.


The main reason for this is that drier ear wax is more likely to become impacted. Some people also exasperate the condition by trying to clean the ears with a cotton bud, which actually pushes the ear wax further into the ear and causes it to become harder and more impacted.


What are the benefits of ear wax removal?


If excess ear wax is affecting your health and/or your hearing, you should seriously consider professional ear wax removal.


Never, ever, try and extract ear wax yourself, and please, for the love of all that is holy, do not attempt to “clean” your ears with a cotton bud or a swap, as this will only impact the wax-like we just looked at.


When it comes to ear wax removal, you should always hire a professional and have your ears professionally cleaned.


Here’s a look at a few key benefits of ear wax removal.


  • Better hearing

  • Reduced headache frequency

  • Reduced headache intensity

  • Better equilibrium and balance

  • Treatment and prevention of tinnitus

  • No more feelings of the ears being ‘blocked up’

  • Instant results

  • Reduced risk of infection

  • Reduced itchiness

  • Healthy ears inside and out


Ear wax removal techniques


Okay, by now we’ve established that cotton buds and swaps should be avoided like the plague when cleaning the ears, and in all honesty, it is always better to have your ear wax extracted by a professional.


But just what are some of the techniques used by professionals to remove ear wax, and which are the more effective methods?


Here’s a look at a few popular ear wax removal techniques:


Water-based ear sprays


Admit it, how many of you have stayed up late at night browsing YouTube and watching videos of pimples being popped, and ear wax being extracted from ears?


There’s just something satisfying about watching an ear clogged full of hard compacted ear wax suddenly being unblocked, and if you are a fan of those types of vids, you’ll notice that ear sprays are often utilised.


Water-based ear sprays typically utilise a conical-shaped nozzle which is then placed carefully into the ear, before having the spray then applied through the nozzle in question.


For people that have a slight blockage that isn’t too significant, water-based sprays are ideal.


There’s nothing fancy about the water used, as it is usually a saline solution or a sterilised sea salt water mixture.


The spray is basically there to dislodge the wax so that it is broken free and can then simply be flushed out.


The only issue here is that water can sometimes become stuck behind the wax, which will then result in a sensation of having water stuck in your ears, which is not very pleasant.


Oil-based sprays


Whereas water-based sprays are designed to help flush out impacted ear wax, if the wax is embedded solidly, oil-based sprays are ideal.


These sprays aren’t designed to flush out the ears, instead, they’re designed to penetrate beneath the ear wax and soften it before another procedure to extract it takes place.


Ear irrigation


Ear irrigation is usually carried out by a medical professional.


Here, a special syringe is filled with warm water, before the tip is inserted into the ear canal and the water is then squirted inside the canal.


A metal kidney dish is then held under the ear to catch the water, and hopefully, the wax, which is flushed out of the ear.


If the wax is hard and compacted, ear irrigation alone won’t shift it, which is where oil-based sprays like we just looked at will prove to be so effective.


Dry instrument removal


Dry instrument removal is another favorite on YouTube and is usually performed by an audiologist or an ENT surgeon.


Here, the medical practitioner will use a series of tools known as Jobson Home curettes or probes, which are basically small spoon and hook-shaped implements which are used to dislodge, scoop, hook, and extract lumps of hard compacted ear wax.


Again, to help loosen the wax somewhat, an oil-based spray will usually be applied beforehand, to help make it easier to remove the wax.


Micro-suction removal







Finally, we have arguably the most effective ear wax removal technique on our list today – micro-suction removal.


Micro-suction removal uses miniature suction pumps, lights, and microscopes, to essentially suck the ear wax from your ears, just like a miniature vacuum cleaner.


It is worth noting here, that there is no water used, so there’s no risk of water getting trapped beneath the ear wax. This is one of the main reasons why people consider this to be the safest ear wax removal technique of all.

The dangers of ear wax removal candles




Some of you may also have been wondering why we didn’t list ear wax removal candles above, as we have been led to believe that ear wax candles are safe and effective when it comes to the removal of ear wax. That isn’t the case at all.


Ear candles are hollow cone-shaped candles made from either soy wax, bees wax, or paraffin wax and are typically 12 inches or so in length.


The narrow pointy end of the candle is inserted into the ear, whereas the wider end of the candle is then lit on fire.


The alleged science behind ear candles is that the heat from the flame causes a vacuum, which then creates suction which pulls impurities such as ear wax from within the ears, out of the ear canal, and into the hollow candle.


Now, in theory, ear candles may work, but there is no evidence that they are effective when removing ear wax, though there is evidence that they are dangerous.


To begin with, you are literally inserting a candle into your ear and setting one end on fire, so of course there is a fire risk and the risk of a burn or fire damage. On top of that, there is also the risk of a perforated ear drum, and ironically, the wax could potentially drip inside the ear and cause a blockage. Fancy that?

Put simply, ear candling, as it is known, is simply not worth the risk and is not a tried and tested medical technique for extracting ear wax.


Final thoughts


So, that just about wraps things up today, so we hope you’ve found the info listed above useful and insightful.


Remember, ear wax is not the enemy, and a little ear wax is beneficial. What is important, however, is to ensure that you don’t suffer from compacted ear wax and allow too much wax to build up in one go.


If you are experiencing ear wax issues, never attempt to remove the wax yourself, and always contact trained professionals, explain your situation, and have them take care of it for you.




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