Microsuction is the safest and fastest ear cleaning method available. Click here book an appointment.

Microsuction is the safest and fastest ear cleaning method available. Book Online.

What is Ear Wax? A Simple Guide

What is Ear Wax? A Simple Guide

Ear Wax: Friend or Foe?

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a sticky, yellowish substance produced by glands in your ear canal. It might not be the most pleasant topic, but ear wax actually plays a vital role in keeping your ears healthy.

Here's why ear wax is your friend:

  • Natural defense system: Ear wax is a sticky barrier that protects the deeper parts of your ears and even your eardrums from dust, dirt and even small insects.
  • Lubrication and protection: Ear wax helps keep the skin lining of your ear canal moist, which prevents dryness and irritation.
  • Antibacterial properties: Ear wax contains lysozyme, an enzyme with natural antibacterial properties that helps fight off infections in the ear canal.

However, excessive ear wax build up can cause a variety of issues, such as:

  • Hearing loss: Ear wax buildup can act like a plug, muffling sound waves and making it harder to hear. This can be a slow buildup which makes it hard to notice.
  • Earaches: Ear wax that is trapped deep in the ear canal can irritate the sensitive skin and cause discomfort or even pain.
  • Tinnitus: Known as ringing in the ear, excessive wax buildup can sometimes contribute to tinnitus symptoms
  • Ears feeling full: A clogged ear canal due to wax buildup can cause your ears to feel full or blocked.

So why Does Excessive Ear Wax Affect My Hearing?

Sound waves travel through the ear canal and vibrate the eardrum. Ear wax build up creates a barrier that disrupts the sound waves, which makes them weaker and harder for your eardrums to detect. This results in muffled sounds and difficulty to understand speech, especially in a noisy environment.

Can Ear Wax Cause Ear Infections?

Ear wax itself doesn’t cause ear infections, but pushing down ear wax with DIY methods such as cotton swabs can push the wax further into the ear canal and irritate it, making the ear more susceptible to infections. Additionally, a blocked ear due to excessive ear wax can trap moisture in the ear canal, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria and also increases the risk of infection.

How Should You Clean Your Ears?

The good news is that your ears are actually self-cleaning! By naturally moving your jaw while chewing, you move ear wax towards the opening of the ear canal. It will then dry up and naturally fall out or get washed away from a shower or bath.

What If I Have Excessive Ear Wax?

While there are many over-the-counter products available for ear wax removal, we would recommend seeing an audiologist instead. Some products such as ear candling and cotton swabs won’t help at all (and could even cause more damage), while others such as ear drops and removal kits can be very slow and ineffective. 

There are three common ear wax removal services available:

  1. Ear irrigation/syringing: Using water to push out ear wax. This is a common method which is relatively effective but can leave your ears wet which may lead to ear infections.
  2. Manual earwax removal: Using specialised tools like forceps or a curette, to manually remove the earwax. This can be very effective and sometimes is the only solution, but relies on the skill of the audiologist.
  3. Microsuction: The fastest, safest and most effective method. This new technique uses a suction device to draw the wax out of your ear. It is what we specialise in at earLAB due to it providing the best results.

Book in an ear wax removal appointment with earLAB today through our online booking system, and come see us in our convenient locations in Richmond and Footscray!