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6 Things You Didn’t Know About “Earwax”

It’s there for a very important reason – By Amanda Hawkins

Cerumen, more commonly known as earwax, is buildup that sits in our ear canal and drives us crazy. But before you start jamming a cotton swab down your ear to clean it out, put it down. We need earwax. And here’s why (plus more interesting facts):

1. It isn’t actually “wax.” Yes, it has a waxy texture, but earwax is really just a combination of secretions from the outer ear (mainly oil and sweat) mixed with dead skin cells, hair, and dirt. But don’t worry — earwax is far from dirty.

2. There are two types of earwax. And the kind you have depends on genetics. Some have dry earwax (gray and flaky), while others have more wet earwax that is honey brown and moist.

3. It keeps our ears clean. Earwax blocks our ear canals from foreign matters like dirt, bugs, bacteria, and water. The coating also helps fight off infections.

4. And it keeps them from itching. Like tears help our eyes, earwax lubricates the inside of our ears to keep them from feeling dry and itchy.

5. Ears are self-cleaning. And poking your ear with a cotton swab or any other mechanism actually pushes earwax back into our ear canals, potentially causing blockage and health problems.

If you do suffer from blockage, cotton swabs are a big no-no. Instead, use a clean wash cloth to clean your external ear, and try a DIY remedy to clean out excessive buildup: Simply add warm water with saline or wax dissolving drops to your ear with a disposable syringe. If that doesn’t work, go to a doctor.

6. Wax blockage can cause hearing loss. If you have a persistent earache, feel like your ear is always plugged, hear noises inside your ear, or partial hearing loss, it might be time to head to an ear doctor. They can remove buildup safely.

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