Ear wax needs no introduction since all of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. Many people would actually wonder as to where does all this wax come from and what is it after all. Read on for answers to some common questions about ear wax.
What is ear wax?
The wall of ear canal (also called external auditory canal) contains numerous tiny glands that produce a waxy oil secretion. This secretion is called cerumen (or wax as we commonly know it). The basic function of the wax in ears is to trap any dust particles, microorganisms or foreign particles and to prevent them from entering and damaging the ear.
What is wax impaction?
Ear wax is normally secreted in a small quantity and this moves to the outer end of the ear canal and gets washed off in routine cases. In some cases, there is excess production of wax. This excess cannot be removed easily and it builds up inside the ear. Over a period of time, it can even harden and can get impacted inside the ear.
Causes of wax impaction:
- Excess wax secretion
- Narrow or tortuous ear canal (external auditory canal)
- Stiff hair or an obstruction inside the ear canal
- Dry and dusty environment
Symptoms of ear wax impaction:
- Ear pain / earache
- Blocked ears or sensation of fullness in ears
- Hearing loss – reduced hearing
- Giddiness / vertigo
Ear wax removal:
In cases of wax impaction, removal of ear wax must be done by a qualified ENT specialist. Do not use ear buds at home to try and remove the impacted wax. It will only push the wax deeper inside and increase your pain / ear blockage.
How is ear wax removed?
Your ENT specialist will prescribe you ear drops to soften the ear wax. These have to be put inside the ears 6-8 times daily or as prescribed. Thereafter, the doctor will remove the ear wax using any of the following techniques:
- Syringing of ear using warm water – This flushes out the ear wax from the ears using an aural syringe
- Using a wax hook
- The wax may have to be removd under short general anaesthesia in cases of extreme pain.