Despite its unattractive appearance, earwax plays a critical role in maintaining healthy ears. Unfortunately, many people have developed the habit of constantly cleaning their ears with unsafe tools, unknowingly harming their ear health. It’s time to put away the cotton swabs and learn to appreciate the benefits of earwax.
What is earwax? Earwax, known medically as cerumen, is a natural secretion produced by glands in the skin cells lining the ear canal. Regardless of hygiene practices, everyone has earwax in their ears.
Although it doesn’t look clean, earwax serves important functions. It keeps the skin of the ear canal soft and healthy, and forms a protective acidic layer. This layer effectively eliminates potentially harmful pathogens such as bacteria and fungi, creating a healthy and infection-free environment.
Earwax is composed of harmless components such as oil, sweat, dead skin cells and sometimes dust particles. However, excess earwax can lead to problems. It can lead to the formation of plugs and, as a result, hearing loss. Ironically, earwax removal methods can make this condition worse.
Blockages are most common in people with narrow ear canals, those who frequently wear items such as noise-canceling plugs or hearing aids in their ears, and those who use cotton swabs. Yes, using cotton swabs to clean your ears can help build up earwax rather than remove it.
There is a natural process of clearing earwax from the body. Cells gradually move earwax closer to the outer surface of the ear until it falls out or is washed away with regular cleaning. However, inserting a cotton swab disrupts this process and pushes earwax and dead skin cells back into the ear canal, increasing the likelihood of plugs and related problems.
This begs the question, is it really necessary to clean your ears?
According to an article published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, “It is important to remember that earwax is natural and beneficial to the body. It doesn’t always need to be removed. You don’t need to do anything unless the earwax buildup is causing symptoms or preventing your doctor from examining your ears.”
Oddly enough, many brands of cotton swabs explicitly state on the packaging that they are not intended for cleaning ears. However, people tend to ignore the safety warnings. In addition to causing plugs, there is a risk of accidentally damaging the delicate eardrum, the thin membrane that separates the outer and inner ear and enables hearing.
If you experience symptoms such as itching, fullness, muffled hearing, fluid or pain in the ear, you should see a professional. However, when it comes to keeping your ears clean, less is better than more, thanks to the benefits of good old fashioned earwax.
In conclusion, it’s time to come to terms with earwax and appreciate its role in maintaining healthy ears.
Avoid excessive cleaning and unsafe methods and embrace the natural process of earwax removal. Your ears will thank you.