What is Ear Wax?
Cerumen or earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. The cerumen is produced by specialized cells that line the outer part of the ear canal. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears.  The ear canals are self - cleaning for the most part. There is a slow migration of ear wax and skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening where it eventually dries, flakes, and falls out. Under ideal circumstances, the ear canals should never have to be cleaned.

Why No Q-Tips
However sometimes it is necessary to clean the ear canal of excessive or impacted ear wax. This often is necessary if the ear canal is instrumented with Q-tips, fingers, bobby pins, twisted napkin corners, or other objects.  The ear canal only forms cerumen in the outer one third so it is rare that cerumen removal is required unless the earwax is pushed deeper into the ear canal. This can create total obstruction of the ear and prevent adequate visualization of the eardrum. If total impaction develops it can cause earache, fullness in the ear, partial hearing loss, itching, odor, fungal infection, tinnitis, or coughing.

Other No No's
Although commonly performed in some doctor's offices, the irrigation of the ear canal for ear wax removal is not recommended unless a perforated ear drum, eardrum ventilation tube, or ear canal yeast infection is ruled out. Ear candles are not safe and can cause obstruction of the canal with hardened wax, ear canal skin burns, or ear drum perforation. The safest and most effective technique for cerumen removal is with microscopic guided dry suctioning of all the wax present up to the ear drum itself. Often the patient is advised to insert a few drops of olive oil or hydrogen peroxide 1-2 nights before the ear cleaning appointment. However, if there is a hole in the eardrum or a ventilation tube in place, putting any eardrops other than antibiotic drops in the ear can cause an ear infection or ear pain. 

Complete or hard cerumen impaction may cause unilateral hearing loss, chronic ear pain, infection and drainage, cough, pain with chewing, or ringing in the ears. Call our office for an appointment with Dr. Sciacca for a microscopic ear exam and possible cerumen removal  if any of the above symptoms are experienced.

For more information about cerumen (earwax) 


 

4501 Southlake Pkwy
Suite #200
Hoover, AL 35244