As unusual as it may sound, there’s been a social media trend and increased talk in recent months about removing earwax. From TikTok to Instagram, people have been trying out cleaning their ears in unique ways, to say the least.
As with everything on social media, hacks shared should be taken with caution, especially when it comes to health. Not all methods you may see online are the best, or even safest practice to follow.
Katie Ogden is a registered hearing aid dispenser and Training Manager for ReSound in North-West Europe. In this piece, she details all things earwax and what to do if you are worried. We hope this helps your ear health journey.
Read more: Scientists can measure your stress levels by analysing ear wax
What is ear wax and why do we need it?
Earwax is a sticky substance that builds up due to wax glands located in the outer part of the ear canal. Earwax can take the form of several colours, usually orange, brown, red, or yellowish.
Although it is often looked at as dirt, Katie Ogden says that we need earwax ‘to clean and protect the inner ear.’ She continues, ‘the wax is essential for moisturising the skin within the ear canal to prevent it from becoming dry or damaged.’
‘The waxy coating also prevents dust, dirt or any other debris from entering the ear and damaging the eardrum’, she says.
How can earwax cause problems?
So, earwax by default is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s more so about the amount that you have, that could cause issues, says Katie.
The earwax expert says that ‘individuals that are frequently removing their earwax and therefore have too little of it can experience dry, itchy ears that are also more prone to infection.’
On the other hand, having too much earwax isn’t good either. Katie says ‘having too much earwax (ceruminosis) building up in the ear canal can lead to impaction which causes earaches, infections, mild deafness, a sensation of fullness in the ear, tinnitus and other hearing problems.’
Katie recommends that ‘if you do have too much earwax or have trouble hearing you should contact a healthcare professional.’ She continues ‘they will be able to examine the ear and provide a safe solution like prescription ear drops, water irrigation or use a suctioning device, to help alleviate the issue’.
How not to clean your ears
Although 96% of people describe removing earwax as their main use for cotton buds, it’s not recommended as a safe method. Katie says ‘often cotton buds can do more harm than …….