The best intentions of ear cleaning could be jeopardising your ability to hear clearly and putting you at risk of ear infections. The ear is a sensitive and sophisticated area, particularly the skin of the ear canal and eardrum. Therefore, when it comes to cleaning ears, special care must always be taken. The best place to start is by avoiding the use of cotton buds and probing your ear with things like your finger, pen tops…and anything else for that matter!
Let’s explore a bit more about ear wax and best methods for cleaning your ears.
Why do our ears produce earwax?
Cerumen, commonly called earwax, is natural and harmless in normal amounts and in fact it functions as a self-cleaning system with defensive, lubricating, and antibacterial characteristics. It is made up of dead skin cells as they shed mixed with secretions from cerumen and sebaceous (AKA sweat glands).
Deficiency of earwax can result in dry, inflamed ears. In general, ears are capable of self-cleaning, meaning, there's a gradual flow of earwax out of the ear canal. Older earwax is continually being moved, helped by chewing and jaw motion, to the ear opening where it typically drops out of the ear on its own.
Earwax is not produced in the deep area of the ear canal, but in the outer area of the ear canal. So, when wax becomes blocked against the eardrum, it's usually due to probing the ear with cotton buds, wearing hearing aids or even earphones.
What is the most sensible technique for ear cleaning?
To cleanse the ears, rinse the outer ear (the bit you can grab at the side of your head – AKA the “Pinna”) with a washcloth, but refrain from inserting the cloth deeper into the ear canal.
Ear syringing with water used to be a common practice but due to concerns over safety, this is no longer carried out. Instead, manual removing of earwax using microsuction by a qualified audiologist, nurse or doctor, is most effective
We will check your ear canals with an otoscope (a special microscope/torch) and if the wax is soft enough for removal, we will wear special glasses with binocular vision that ENT surgeons use to have a magnified, bright and clear visual of your ear canal. We then use a sterile suction tube and a medical hoover to gently suck the wax (and sometimes ear infections!) out of your ear canals using air.
For the majority of people, this procedure works first time but if the wax is hard and impacted, you may need to go away and use more drops so that the procedure doesn’t cause your sensitive ear canal any harm.
Once the wax is removed, we will inspect the health of your canal and ear drum and advise accordingly.
Microsuction for ear wax can be used on all ears, including those that have had perforated ear drums or a history of ear surgery.
Don’t wait until it gets worse. Schedule an exam today and we will help you enjoy your favourite tunes or other half singing in the shower again.