What is earwax?
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is produced by glands in the skin of the outer part of the ear canal. It is a protective barrier against dry skin, infections and dirt, helping to maintain the health of your ear. Everybody produces a different type and colour of earwax and in different quantities too.
What problems can earwax cause?
For most people, earwax causes no issues and can be left alone. If the wax really builds up in the ear, it can block the passage of sound and cause a mild hearing loss. In those who where hearing aids, it can block the microphone part of them. In fact, more often than not, most problems occur when attempting to remove earwax with cotton buds, which can actually push the wax deeper in to the ear canal and press against the ear drum.
How should we remove earwax?
For most people, earwax should be left alone as the ear has a natural ability to clean itself. The skin of the ear canal has special properties, which allow the skin and wax to travel to the opening of the ear canal before it drops out. But for some people, over production of wax can be a problem and removal should be left to a professional to avoid the risk of trauma to the ear leading to bleeding, infections or hearing loss.
Ear drops can help soften the earwax which can aid removal, which is ideally done using a microscope to visualise the area and a mini-hoover which can safely remove the wax (microsuction).