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Earwax: the ear's best friend!

Many people think earwax is dirty. Perhaps that's why they try to remove it with a cotton bud or some other implement – even though it's not usually necessary to do so.

Earwax is often regarded as an unhygienic secretion which must be removed. However, this soft waxy material is not dirty – quite the opposite in fact. It is part of the ear's natural cleaning mechanism and helps ensure that nothing harmful gets into the ear. Earwax is produced by the sebaceous and sweat glands which are located between the outer ear (the "pinna") and the eardrum (the "tympanum"). It prevents the skin in the ear canal from drying out and stops pathogens and insects from entering the ear. Normally, the ear canal cleans itself and requires no outside intervention. Wax is pushed out whenever we chew or speak.

Cotton buds etc.
Nevertheless, many people feel a need to clean their ears. Cotton buds remain the implement of choice, even though specialists advise against them – and rightly so. Cotton buds are completely unsuitable for the job because they can easily push earwax back into the canal and cause blockages. Other thin implements should also be avoided, not least because they can pierce the eardrum or even dislocate the auditory ossicle. Using a shower head to flush out the ears is also not recommended because excess moisture in the ear canal can lead to inflammation.

The correct method
If, however, you still want to clean your ears, you can wipe the outer ear with a damp cloth or cotton pad. It's also a good idea to wash and thoroughly dry the skin behind the ears regularly.

Pain and pressure
As we age, earwax tends to become drier and is not so easily extruded. As a result, older people can suffer from earwax blockages which can lead to reduced hearing sensitivity in the affected ear. They can also lead to a dull feeling of pressure or even pain in the ear canal. If this happens, you should not try to remove the blockage yourself because of the risk of damaging the ear canal or eardrum. The best idea is to see your doctor who will remove it using suction or a jet of warm water.

sante24 – a service from SWICA
If you have any questions about your health, the doctors and medical staff at sante24 would be happy to offer you expert advice – free of charge, around the clock. Phone 044 404 86 86