The American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery has updated its guidelines on taking care of wax in the ears.
Wax, also called Cerumen, is a natural secretion of the ear canal and has a protective function. Nature has created adequate mechanisms for the regular evacuation of the wax from the ear canal,and these include
- the ear canal wall skin migrates outwards and periodically sheds the wax at the ear canal opening - all one has to do is to brush off this flaky material with a moist cloth
- The movement of talking, eating, yawning etc is passed on to the ear canal and this helps in the process of shedding of the wax
There has been a long standing misconception among people that we need to clean the wax from the ears, and thus they are incessantly poking their ears with cue tips, pencils, hair pins etc in an effort to remove the wax. This is a grave error and should not be done.
To the question which is invariably asked to me - 'Doctor if Ear Buds are dangerous and not to be used why are they being sold?' I have no credible answer.
Build up of wax in the ear is problematic because it causes itching, pain, hearing loss, and sometimes tinnitus or rarely giddiness.
The current guidelines of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery state :
- Avoid excessive cleaning of the ear as this can lead to irritation in the ear canal, ear infection, and earwax buildup
- Do not put cotton swabs, hair pins, toothpicks, and other small items in your ears; doing so can damage the eardrum, ear canal, or even dislocate the hearing bones
- Avoid using ear candles; they can damage the eardrum and ear canal, and there is insufficient evidence to suggest they are effective for removing excess earwax
- Seek medical attention if you are experiencing ear pain, ear fullness, or hearing loss and you are unsure whether these symptoms are caused by earwax buildup.
Ear drainage or bleeding may signal other problems