Secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals is a grey, orange, or yellowish waxy substance known by the medical term cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax. Earwax consists of shed skin cells, hair, and the secretions of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands of the outside ear canal. Major components of earwax are long chain fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated, alcohols, squalene, and cholesterol.
Earwax protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, and has antimicrobial properties that protect the skin of the human ear canal. It assists in cleaning and lubrication, of the ear canal and provides some protection against microorganisms such as some strains of bacteria, fungi, and from insects. It also protects the ear canal skin from irritation due to water.
In normal circumstances, excess wax finds its way naturally out of the canal and into the ear opening and thenwashed away. Some people are prone to produce too much earwax which doesn’t automatically lead to blockage. At times, when our glands make more earwax than necessary, it may get hard and block the ear. Excess or compacted cerumen can press against the eardrum or block the outside ear canal or hearing aids, potentially causing hearing loss.
Frequent use of earphones might cause wax buildup and can inadvertently cause blockages by preventing earwax from coming out of the ear canals.
Movement of the jaw helps the ears’ natural cleaning process. The American Academy of Otolaryngology discourages earwax removal unless the excess earwax is causing problems.
We should take great caution when trying to treat earwax buildup at home. When we clean our ears, we can accidentally push the wax deeper, when using cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects in our ear canal causing a blockage. So, in a way, the wax buildup is a common reason for a temporary hearing loss.
If the problem of hearing loss persists, it is advisable to visit a doctor.
- Earwax (en.wikipedia.org)
- Earwax Buildup and Blockage (healthline.com)
- Earwax blockage (mayoclinic.org)
- How to Clean Your Ears (wikihow.com)