"Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear." Edgar Allan Poe gave us this advice long ago. But sometimes what we hear may be very important, such as when we are being told to take care of our ears. The ear naturally secretes wax to protect and lubricate the ear as well as to keep debris out and hinder bacterial growth. Under normal conditions, the body keeps the amount of earwax in the ears under control. Too much earwax or hardened earwax can cause a blockage in the ear, resulting in earaches, ringing in the ears, or temporary hearing loss.
The ear, especially the canal and eardrum, is very sensitive. Earwax buildup can cause damage to these structures over time. This can affect your hearing. Removing excess earwax with ear irrigation is a safe way to minimize the risk of damage to the ear.
Sometimes foreign materials like food, insects, or small stones can get into the ear. In these cases, the goal is to safely and quickly remove the items before they move deeper into the ear or do damage to the delicate canal. Ear irrigation can be effective in removing foreign materials from the ear.
Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum. It is only formed in the outer one-third of the ear canal. So, when a patient has wax blockage against the eardrum, it is often because he has been probing the ear with such things as cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins, or twisted napkin corners. These objects only push the wax in deeper.
Damage to the skin of the inner ear may occur as a result of
ear wax cleaning. Ear irrigation, one method of ear wax removal that is also called ear syringing, can cause otitis externa, which is an inflammation of the skin in the outer ear and ear canal. Wax removal with suction, probes or forceps, while effective, may also impact the ear canal skin in a traumatic way. The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery reports ear candling, a method of removing wax with melting, can cause burns to the skin of the ear canal.
A doctor or nurse can look into the ear canal and confirm a plug of earwax has formed. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance. You only need to remove earwax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing. Earwax may also need to be removed for fitting of a hearing aid, or if a doctor or nurse needs to examine your eardrum.