Earwax: While some might consider it disgusting, it’s an important part of your body’s defense system.
Its main purpose is to protect the ear canal by preventing foreign particles from entering, as well as inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
In most cases, the amount of earwax present in an individual’s ear is successfully controlled by the body. Small amounts of earwax will generally fall out of the ear or wash away with regular hygiene practices.
However, in certain instances earwax can accumulate in the ear and become too hard to wash away naturally.
If this problem persists, an earwax blockage may occur. Presently, it is not known what causes these blockages to form.
Interestingly, most doctors agree that placing cotton swabs or other objects into the ear in order to clean it actually increases the risk of developing a blockage.
The reason for this is the instrument or swab tends to push the earwax deeper into the ear rather than removing it.
There are generally four main signs and symptoms that are experienced by a person suffering from an earwax blockage.
Firstly, many people experience an earache in the affected ear. The pain associated with the earache ranges from dull and achy to sharp. Also, many patients have reported feeling a sense of fullness in the ear. This may be due to an increase in pressure in the ear canal.
Mild to moderate hearing loss may also be associated with a blockage. Finally, some individuals complain of tinnitus or ringing of the ears.
The symptoms will differ from person to person, however most patients experience some or all of these symptoms.
It is important to note that the symptoms of an earwax blockage can mimic other, more serious ear conditions. As such, it is important to consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Although it may seem simple, the removal of earwax is best performed by your doctor. It is not recommended that you try to remove earwax yourself, as you may damage the ear canal or eardrum.
If your doctor suspects a blockage, he or she will look into your ear using a special instrument called an otoscope. The otoscope illuminates and magnifies your ear canal allowing the doctor to properly inspect your ear.
If there is a significant amount of earwax seen upon inspection, your doctor will remove some of it. This removal is done with a small, curved instrument called a curette or by a suction instrument.
If these methods are not successful, your doctor may flush your ear with a syringe filled with warm water.
In the majority of cases, these methods are sufficient for removing excess earwax. However, if they are not successful, your doctor may recommend that you use medicated eardrops to help with the wax removal.
There are also a few home remedies that may be useful in preventing the buildup of earwax. First of all, never use a sharp object such as a toothpick or a paper clip to dig out excess earwax.
Softening the wax with baby oil, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide for a few days may loosen up some wax and encourage it to fall out on its own.
Warm water may also have similar effects on the earwax. It is important to note that softening agents may also cause the blockage to move deeper into the ear canal. Thus, it is important to consult with your doctor before attempting any self help or home remedy. Until next month, drive safely!