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Earwax Facts
March 2, 2014, 12:11 pm

Earwax, or in medical jargon cerumen, is a combination of sebum, sloughed-off skin cells from inside of the ear, and secretions from the glands in the outer ear canal. Earwax comes in two types - wet and dry; the kind you have depends on genetics. Other interesting earwax facts include:

Earwax is like nose hair: Earwax is another of our body’s under-appreciated, yet totally amazing protective devices. Earwax shields our ears from dust, bacteria, and other micro-organisms that can get in and irritate, inflame, or infect the ears.

Earwax is like tears: Earwax lubricates our ears, in much the same way as tears lubricate our eyes. Without adequate amounts of earwax, our ears would feel dry and itchy.

Earwax affects hearing: Blocked earwax is the most common cause of temporary hearing loss. This can happen if wax is pushed back toward the eardrum or if the ears produce more earwax than is needed. Symptoms of impacted earwax include earache, feeling of fullness in the ear, a sensation that the ear is plugged, and tinnitus or ringing in the ear. Your ear may also itch, have an odor, or emit a discharge.

Earwax cleans up ears: Thanks to earwax, our ears are self-cleaning. Whenever you move your jaw or chew, you help keep earwax churning slowly from the eardrum to the ear opening, where it will then either dry up, flake off, or fall out. Normally ears do not need any aid to stay healthy; not even cleaning with those cotton-tipped ear cleaning buds or wiggling your fingers inside the ears to soothe an itch, as you risk blocking your ears by pushing wax further inside.

DIY ear cleaning: If you suspect that your ears are blocked by excess earwax, you can seek a doctor’s assistance in clearing it. Or if your ears are otherwise healthy, you can  attempt to do it on your own by applying several drops of baby oil or mineral oil into your ear canal to soften the wax. Then, tilt your head to the point where your ear canal is straight and use a rubber-bulb syringe to gently squirt water into the ear canal. Tip your head to let the water drain and dry with a towel.

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