Let’s talk about ear wax

We often overlook health issues we can’t see until they start to have a negative impact and ears are no exception. But, they need just as much looking after as any other part of the body. Some issues with the ears can simply be caused by wax. If you’re experiencing some symptoms, read on to see if our advice might help. If your issue seems urgent, seek more immediate medical care.

What is ear wax?
Ear wax is a yellowy-brown substance produced naturally in the ear. For many people, ear wax does not cause any complications. However, ear wax build-up can lead to a range of symptoms.

Why does the body produce wax?
Although the exact function of wax is not fully understood, it is believed to play a role in the cleanliness, hygiene and overall health of the ear by trapping dirt and lubricating the ear canal.

Why does earwax build up?
The amount of wax secreted can significantly vary between individuals and one ear can produce more wax than the other. For some people, wax can build up inside the ear canal due to a number of reasons:

  • The skin lining of the ear canal no longer sheds effectively and traps wax inside the ear
  • Hereditary bends or narrowness deep inside the ear canal, or chronic ear infections
  • Using cotton buds or regular wearing of hearing aids, earbuds and earplugs
  • Tiny hairs (cilia) inside the ear canal become entangled with the wax
  • The glands in the skin lining the ear canal are hyperactive and secrete more wax than normal
  • The presence of hard, dry wax (more common in older people) becomes impacted and lodged inside the ear canal.

How do I know if I have ear wax?
If left to build up, ear wax can cause symptoms including:

  • Earache and the sensation of a blocked ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Increased volume of internal sounds such as chewing, breathing, you heartbeat and your own voice
  • Tinnitus (a ringing/whistling/buzzing type of sound that only you can hear)
  • Vertigo (dizziness due to an increase in air pressure)
  • Whistling hearing aid (sounds being amplified by the hearing aid is reflected back out of the ear)
  • Itchiness/irritation

What can I do to treat my ear wax?
There are a number of different ways to safely remove excess wax and clean the ear, though this depends on the consistency. Once removed, there is often instant relief from the symptoms. Ear wax deep inside the ear canal should only be removed by a qualified professional – never poke anything into your own ear canal.

Video otoscopy equipment is used whilst the wax is removed via a low-pressure suction machine and fine, sterile probe.

Ear irrigation
This replaces the old-fashioned technique of ear syringing and uses an irrigation device to introduce water into the ear, rather than squirting straight in. This allows water to flush the wax out safely.

Manual extrusion
Using state-of-the-art video otoscopy equipment to directly visualise the wax, an audiologist removes the wax with the use of micro-instruments.

If you are experiencing any changes to your hearing, it’s important to get your hearing assessed by a qualified audiologist. Get in touch with the Online Hearing Care team today, by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 054 1138.

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