Most of the time ear wax performs its function and goes unnoticed. However, there are times when overproduction may cause problems. If there is any kind of discomfort, our bodies force us to take notice. Here you will learn more about earwax, what are the factors that cause ear problems, and most importantly what can alleviate unpleasant symptoms.
The following question and answer segment should answer any questions that you may have on ear wax removal in Singapore.
Exactly what is ear wax?
Ear wax is essentially a thick sticky oil that your ear produces. It is medically referred to as cerumen. Even though it’s often overlooked, it protects your ear from dust, water, trauma, infection, microorganisms, and any other foreign matter.
How does my body produce ear wax?
Ear wax is a combination of the sebaceous glands’ fatty secretion, the wax from the sweat gland in the outer ear canal, debris, and dead skin cells. Speaking or chewing moves the secretions from your ear canal to the external ear. All the components of ear wax combine in the outer ear.
What will happen if I don’t clean my ear?
Most people do not need to clean their ears. However, there are those who have overactive sebum glands that produce excess wax. A blockage occurs when the excess wax hardens and accumulates in the ear. If this accumulation continues unchecked, you can experience a temporary hearing loss.
Can your ear clean itself?
The answer is yes, your ears have remarkable self-cleaning capabilities. The epithelial tissue skin cells push the excess earwax through the inner ear to the outer ear. This process effectively gets rid of excess earwax. As such the most persons do not need to clean their ears.
What are the signs of ear wax build-up?
There are quite a few symptoms that can be an indicator of ear wax build-up. They are enumerated below:
- Ringing or buzzing noise in the ear
- Sudden/partial/temporary/prolonged hearing loss
- Dizziness or Vertigo
- Itchy sensation
- Persistent ear pain.
What causes ear wax build-up?
There are a few reasons why your ear’s self-cleaning mechanism may fail resulting in ear wax build-up requiring removal.
- The structure of a person’s ear can vary from person to person. Some ear canals are narrow or shaped in a way that makes you more prone to ear wax build-up.
- Ear canal disease as a result of infection or eczema may cause excess ear wax build-up. When ear eczema becomes infected it causes ear wax build-up which contributes to a blockage.
- Ear wax overproduction. Some people produce more ear wax than others. The reason why is not really known.
- The older you get the harder your ear wax becomes. It usually starts when sebum glands in the ear canal start to shrink. The movement of ear wax from the inner ear to the outer ear is less efficient.
- Recurring ear canal infections increase the chance of ear wax build-up.
- Physical damage to the ear triggers ear wax build-up.
- The use of cotton buds pushes ear wax further down into the ear canal often causing a blockage.
- The use of Q tips or cotton buds might also potentially cause injury to the ear!
How is ear wax removed?
There is more than one way to remove wax from your ear. The three main ways are discussed below:
- Chemical ear drops– This is one of the least intrusive methods. It is both painless and safe. The ear drops liquify the ear wax and lubricate the ear canal. This way the cerumen is easily removed from the ear. Ear drops should only be used for 3-5 days. Usage beyond the recommended time may cause irritation of your ear canal lining. This can lead to discomfort, temporary hearing loss, ear pain, and infection.
- Ear irrigation – This process uses the force of water to dislodge and flush out the ear wax that has accumulated in the ear. However, the procedure is not without risk. Sometimes water remains in the ear and causes infection. Ear irrigation may also cause injury or perforation of the eardrum, discomfort, pain, hearing loss, dizziness, and tinnitus. This process should not be used on patients who have perforated eardrums or who are prone to ear infections.
- Microsuction – This technique allows your doctor to see your ear canal with a microscope and use a small suction tool or mini vacuum to remove the ear wax safely. Sometimes other instruments like forceps, hooks, and curettes are used. This treatment is safe for persons who have an ear infection or perforated eardrums. Microsuction is always performed by a clinician who is highly trained and has the right equipment. It is considered the safest and most effective wax removal method.
Who should have Microsuction?
Microsuction is the best option for ear wax removal for patients who:
- experiencing symptoms due to ear wax build-up.
- have an ear infection. Irrigation is not an option.
- use hearing aids.
- have ear canals that are different anatomically speaking.
Will my hearing improves after ear wax removal?
Yes, hearing definitely improves when ear wax is removed. The fact is ear wax blockage can affect children and adults alike. However, seniors are affected the most.
Once ear wax removal is done properly, and all of the blockages are removed, hearing is restored. This is particularly important for the elderly since they are able to socialize and as a result, avoid cognitive decline.
Ear wax removal once done effectively can provide enormous relief for patients. If you are experiencing any kind of ear discomfort, we encourage you to discuss it with your doctor further.
This article is contributed by Dr Ben Medical @Raffles Place
Dr Ben Loh
Dr. Benjamin Loh is a General Practitioner with a focus in Men’s Health, Ear Nose Throat and Dermatology. He obtained his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from Monash University,Melbourne, and was awarded a postgraduate qualification by the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) in the UK. He has served in public and private multi-disciplinary clinics and tertiary hospitals in Singapore, with a portfolio of Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Otorhinolaryngology (ENT), Venerology, and Dermatology.
Find out more: https://www.drbenmedical.sg/ear-wax-removal-singapore/