Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Health Care and Ear Wax

Ever have an annoying problem not being able to hear, and it was due to a build up of what’s known as ear wax? One of the most common causes related to loss of hearing is when your ear canal produces a  waxy substance that, unless treated and cleaned regularly, can be a detriment to your ability to clearly hear sounds.

According to Healthline, your ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax. This wax protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, and microorganisms. It also protects ear canal skin from irritation due to water. In normal circumstances, excess wax finds its way out of the canal and into the ear opening naturally and then is washed away.

When your glands make more earwax than is necessary, it may get hard and block the ear. When you clean your ears, you can accidentally push the wax deeper, causing a blockage. Wax buildup is a common reason for temporary hearing loss. More information can be found at this website: http://www.healthline.com/health/earwax-buildup .

Cerumen, as noted by the American Hearing Research Foundation, protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection against bacteria, fungi, insects and water. Earwax consists of shed skin cells, hair, and the secretions of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands of the outside ear canal. Major components of earwax are long chain fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated, alcohols, squalene, and cholesterol. Excess or compacted cerumen can press against the eardrum or block the outside ear canal or hearing aids, potentially causing hearing loss.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), cerumen or earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears. Self-cleaning means there is a slow and orderly movement of earwax and dead skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening. Old earwax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear canal to the ear opening where, most of the time, it dries, flakes, and falls out.

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. More info about this topic is located at this site: http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care .

You’re also more likely to have wax buildup if you frequently use earphones, which can inadvertently prevent earwax from coming out of the ear canals and cause blockages, according to Healthline. The appearance of earwax varies from light yellow to dark brown. Darker colors do not necessarily indicate that there is a blockage. Signs of earwax buildup include:

·         Sudden or partial hearing loss, which is usually temporary
·         Tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ear
·         A feeling of fullness in the ear
·         Ear ache

Unremoved earwax buildup can lead to infection. Contact your doctor if you experience the symptoms of infection, such as:

·         Severe pain in your ear
·         Pain in your ear that does not subside
·         Drainage from your ear
·         Fever
·         Coughing
·         Persistent hearing loss
·         An odor coming from your ear
·         Dizziness

It’s important to note that hearing loss, dizziness, and earaches also have many other causes. You should see your doctor if any of these symptoms are frequent. A full medical evaluation can help determine whether the problem is due to excess earwax or another health issue.

To clean the ears, wash the external ear with a cloth, but do not insert anything into the ear canal, according to the AAO. Most cases of ear wax blockage respond to home treatments used to soften wax. Patients can try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops in the ear. Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (available in most pharmacies) may also aid in the removal of wax.

Irrigation or ear syringing is commonly used for cleaning and can be performed by a physician or at home using a commercially available irrigation kit. Common solutions used for syringing include water and saline, which should be warmed to body temperature to prevent dizziness. Ear syringing is most effective when water, saline, or wax dissolving drops are put in the ear canal 15 to 30 minutes before treatment. Caution is advised to avoid having your ears irrigated if you have diabetes, a hole in the eardrum (perforation), tube in the eardrum, skin problems such as eczema in the ear canal or a weakened immune system.

Manual removal of earwax is also effective. This is most often performed by an otolaryngologist using suction or special miniature instruments, and a microscope to magnify the ear canal. Manual removal is preferred if your ear canal is narrow, the eardrum has a perforation or tube, other methods have failed, or if you have skin problems affecting the ear canal, diabetes or a weakened immune system.

Some people are troubled by repeated build-up of earwax and require ear irrigation every so often. More information about ear syringing is available at this site: http://patient.info/health/earwax-leaflet .

According to the Cleveland Clinic, if left untreated, excessive ear wax may cause symptoms of ear wax impaction to become worse. These symptoms might include hearing loss, ear irritation, etc. A build-up of ear wax might also make it difficult to see into the ear, which may result in potential problems going undiagnosed.  Do not stick anything into your ears to clean them. Use cotton swabs only on the outside of the ear. 

If you have a severe enough problem with ear wax that you need to have it removed by a health professional more than once a year, discuss with them which method of prevention (if any) may work best for you. Additional details on this subject are available at this website: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/cerumen-impaction-earwax-buildup-and-blockage .

Ear candling has gained a lot of attention as a home remedy for earwax removal (and overall well-being), but doctors strongly advise against it because hasn't been proved to be safe or effective. In ear candling, one end of a cone-type device is inserted into the ear canal and the other end is set on fire, with the idea that the fire and the cone form a vacuum and extract the wax. 

But trying this at home means a high risk of burning the ear canal and possibly perforating or punching a hole in the eardrum, which can permanently damage hearing, according to KidsHealth. Find more info at this site: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/earwax.html .

Ear wax buildup can be a problem, so see your doctor if you are having hearing problems or notice any of the symptoms noted in this article. Be careful with home remedies, and always get medical attention if your ears have any problems.


Until next time. 

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