Whenever we go out and do public service events at health fairs, senior centers and lunch-and-learns, we always take a video otoscope so that people can see for themselves what is in their ears– most often they see earwax.
Many people are embarrassed or “grossed out” by ear wax, but earwax (or cerumen) is a self-cleaning agent produced in your ears with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. Earwax is not really a “wax” but a water-soluble mixture of secretions (produced in the outer third of the ear canal), plus hair and dead skin. Contrary to popular belief, earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but in the outer one-third of the ear canal.
Many people worry about earwax and use many methods to remove it. Many of those methods are not recommended by ear specialists, such as Q-tips and”ear-candling” Most of the time earwax naturally works its way out of the ear through movement of your jaw while speaking and chewing. If you do have impacted ear wax, we recommend seeing a professional (your audiologist or physician) to have it removed. You can make the process easier by using earwax softening drops such as Murine or Debrox for a week or so before seeing a professional.
For patients who wear hearing aids, earwax can cause a litany of problems and you must take special care not to let earwax lessen the effectiveness of or damage your hearing technology. Cerumen in the ear canal can cause the hearing aid to fit poorly and not seal properly. If the hearing aid fits poorly, sound produced by the aid passes around it and out of the ear canal, where it is picked up by the microphone and reamplified. A positive feedback loop is created and audible, high-pitched feedback results. Cerumen removal eliminates feedback, when the feedback is due to excess earwax.
Too much earwax can also damage the listening device. In fact, current estimates from various hearing aid manufacturers indicate that 60 to 70 percent of all hearing aids sent for repair are damaged as a result of contact with cerumen.
Patients who wear hearing aids should have their clinician examine the ears for impacted earwax during routine visits. We recommend that patients schedule a hearing aid cleaning at least every 6 months to professionally remove any earwax that may have accumulated in the hearing aid.
If your professional finds evidence of earwax impaction in the ear, he or she may need to perform a variety of techniques to help remove the obstruction. These include:
- · Flushing the ear with cerumenolytic (wax-dissolving) agents, which include water, saline, and other agents of comparable efficacy.
- · Using irrigation or ear syringing.
- · Manual removal with special instruments or a suction device, which is preferred for patients with narrow ear canals, eardrum perforation or tube, or immune deficiency.
If you would like to have a complimentary ear wax check, please call our office at 801-770-0801 or see www.utahhearingaids.com for more information.