Under normal circumstances, your earwax plays a valuable role in clearing out, protecting, and lubricating the passageways in your ears. If you’re among the 5% to 10% of the population in the United States that develops too much earwax, however, the problem can lead to infections, discomfort, and even partial hearing loss.
At Lexington ENT & Allergy, Dr. Alexa Lessow heads a team of ear, nose, and throat specialists that ensures that these very important areas of your health are functioning well. When it comes to ear problems, too much earwax may seem more of a nuisance than a health concern, but you might be surprised at what too much of a good thing can cause.
Here’s a look at the problem behind too much earwax buildup and what you can do about it.
Why earwax is good
Earwax, which is medically known as cerumen, is a waxy substance created by secretions from sebaceous and sweat glands located in the walls of your outer ear canal. When you move your jaw, you propel the earwax through your canal, where it clears away debris, dead skin cells, and hair. Once it reaches the opening of your ear, it simply flakes away.
Your earwax also contains antibacterial properties that help prevent foreign invaders from entering your ears.
The complications of earwax buildup
As we mentioned earlier, between 5 and 10% of the population in the US has issues with earwax buildup. Breaking these numbers down, about 1 in 10 children experience earwax issues, as well as 1 in 20 adults.
Whatever your age, too much earwax can lead to certain problems, including:
If your earwax gets lodged inside your ear, you may also experience hearing issues.
Dealing with excess earwax
If your ears tend to build up earwax, the one thing you shouldn’t do is grab a swab to try and clear it away. In most cases, this practice simply pushes the earwax further inside your ear, achieving quite the opposite effect.
If you want to remedy earwax buildup at home, we recommend first soaking a cotton ball with lukewarm water, a saline solution, or hydrogen peroxide. Then use the cotton ball to release a few drops of the liquid inside your ears. Keep your head tilted to the side for a minute and then tilt your head in the other direction to drain your ear.
If this proves ineffective, you can also try over-the-counter eardrops that are designed to break up wax. You can also add a bulb syringe to your purchase to rinse out your ears.
If these measures are unsuccessful, we urge you to stop there and come see us before you cause any damage. We have the experience, knowledge, and tools to easily remove built-up earwax safely and easily.
If you have more questions about controlling your earwax, please contact our office on the Upper East Side of New York City.