Embracing Earwax: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Ear Cleaning Routine

Hello there, fellow knowledge seekers! If you’re in the habit of meticulously cleaning your ears, you might be surprised to learn you’re not actually doing your ears any favors. In fact, it’s high time to wave the white flag and call a truce in the war against earwax. Put down the cotton swab and lend me your ears—or, in this case, your eyes. Together, let’s delve into the misunderstood world of earwax and why you should think twice before attempting to banish it from your ear canals.

Meet Your Ear’s Best Friend: Cerumen (Aka Earwax)

Let’s start with the basics. Earwax, or as it’s known in more scientific circles, cerumen, is a natural secretion produced by a mix of glands that line your ear canal. You might cringe at its appearance, but trust me, it’s a crucial part of your ear’s well-being, no matter how diligent you are with your hygiene routine.

This orangey-brown substance does much more than just keep your ear canals lubricated. It creates an acidic barrier that sends harmful agents like bacteria and fungi packing, keeping your ears healthy and infection-free. Besides oil and sweat, it also houses dead skin cells and an occasional dust particle. Not all heroes wear capes, and our earwax is definitely one unsung hero.

The Silent Aggressor: Earwax Buildup

Despite its significant role, too much of a good thing can also pose problems. Overproduction can lead to what’s called impaction, a condition that can result in hearing difficulties. Ironically, the measures we take to rid ourselves of earwax often exacerbate this situation.

Those with narrower ear canals, frequent earplug users, and enthusiastic cotton swab aficionados are more prone to impaction. Yes, pushing a cotton swab down your ear canal isn’t a heroic act of cleaning. Instead, it interferes with your body’s natural cleaning process, shoving earwax back where it should be gradually moving away from, which can lead to a buildup.

To Clean or Not to Clean?

So, now that we know that our body has its own earwax cleaning mechanism, do we need to clean our ears at all? According to a study published in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, earwax is natural and beneficial, and there’s no need to remove it unless there’s excessive buildup causing symptoms or hindering medical examinations.

Despite cotton swab manufacturers often specifying that their products aren’t suitable for ear cleaning, we humans have a knack for disregarding safety warnings. Overzealous cleaning can not only result in impaction but can also damage the delicate eardrum.

Experiencing symptoms like itching, fullness, muffled hearing, or pain in the ear warrants a visit to your healthcare provider. But for routine cleaning, it appears that the ‘less is more’ mantra rings true, thanks to our underrated friend—earwax.

What’s the Takeaway?

Isn’t it interesting how the things we often disregard or find unappealing can play such an essential role in our well-being? Earwax is just another example of our body’s amazing ability to take care of itself.

Remember, the content of this article isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek advice from qualified health providers regarding any medical conditions.

Fact-checked and up-to-date, we strive to keep our readers informed. As the wheel of knowledge keeps turning, we may edit, remove, or add to this article to maintain its relevance. It’s all part of our commitment to ensuring you stay in-the-know about all things health and wellness.

Further reading

Chalishazar, U., & Thevasagayam, M. S. (2021). Cerumen management: A review of current practices and future perspectives. Journal of Otology, 16(1), 1-6.

Roland, P. S., Smith, T. L., & Schwartz, S. R. (2008). Clinical practice guideline: Cerumen impaction. Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 139(3_suppl_2), S1-S21.

Llewellyn, A., & Norman, G. (2020). The clinical management of cerumen impaction. American Family Physician, 101(4), 207-214.

Morris, P. S., Leach, A. J., & Halpin, S. (2007). Prevalence and severity of scarring and chronic tympanic membrane perforations among aboriginal and non-aboriginal children. Ear and hearing, 28(5), 643-651

Schwartz, S. R., Magit, A. E., & Rosenfeld, R. M. (2017). Clinical practice guideline (update): Earwax (cerumen impaction). Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, 156(1_suppl), S1-S29. Link

How to Clean Your Ears. Link

3 reasons to leave earwax alone. Link

Time to Quit Removing Wax from Our Ears. Link