You may think you know how to handle earwax buildup, but do you? The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery has issued new guidelines, so listen up!
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is produced by the body to protect, clean, and lubricate the ears. If we had none, our ears would be incredibly prone to infection. Still, it’s considered basic hygienic maintenance to clean out the ears whenever earwax builds up, right?
A press release about the new guidelines explains the purpose of earwax.
“Earwax or cerumen is a normal substance that the body produces to clean, protect, and ‘oil’ ears. It acts as a self-cleaning agent to keep ears healthy. Dirt, dust, and other small matter stick to the earwax which keeps them from getting farther into the ear. Chewing, jaw motion, and growing skin in the ear canal help to move old earwax from inside the ears to the ear opening where it then flakes off or is washed off during bathing. This normal process of making wax and pushing the old wax out is continual.”
Dr. Seth R. Schwartz, chair of the guideline update group, says that some people make problems worse when they clean out their ears.
— Help In Hearing (@HelpInHearing) December 30, 2016
“The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted further into the ear canal,” he says. “Anything that fits in the ear could cause serious harm to the eardrum and canal with the potential for temporary or even permanent damage.”
Dr. Schwartz says that people use cotton swabs, paper clips, ear candles, and other small instruments to clean out their ears. Of course, too much earwax can cause problems from coughing and itching to partial hearing loss and ear pain. So, after in-depth research, the experts have new guidelines on how we should handle earwax.
Apparently, most of us clean our ears out too much, and we can cause ourselves problems, even just using cotton swabs. The experts say we shouldn’t even be using those in our ears. Of course, if we aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs in our ears, we certainly aren’t supposed to use hairpins or other small items. They actually suggest that we should never put anything smaller than our elbows into our ears. Of course, anything larger than our elbow won’t fit in our ears, and that’s basically the point.
We’re not supposed to be putting any objects into our ears to clean earwax buildup without first talking to a clinician. The experts say that we can damage our eardrums or even dislocate the hearing bones, Medical News Today reports.
They also say that the candles that people sometimes use can also damage the eardrum and the ear canal. The experts say that if we have too much earwax, we should ask a clinician about ways to safely treat earwax buildup at home. They say that our earwax only needs to be cleaned when “earwax accumulates to cause symptoms or to prevent a needed assessment of the ear by your doctor.” Cerumen impaction, the experts say, can cause earaches, a sensation that the ear is plugged, hearing loss, ringing or noises in the ear, itching, odor, discharge, and coughing.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 4, 2017
The press release indicates that when our ears’ self-cleaning process doesn’t work, “earwax can collect and block, or partly block, the ear canal.”
“Excessive or impacted cerumen is present in 1 in 10 children, 1 in 20 adults, and more than one-third of the geriatric and developmentally delayed populations.”
“This update is significant because it not only provides best practices for clinicians in managing cerumen impaction, it is a strong reminder to patients that ear health starts with them, and there are many things they should do as well as many things that they should stop doing immediately to prevent damage to their ears,” Schwartz said.
So, there you have it! If earwax buildup is a problem, we’re supposed to get advice from a professional. The days of carelessly cleaning our own earwax buildup from our own ears are over.
[Featured Image by Bunphot Kliaphuangphit/Shutterstock]