3 Most Popular Methods of Earwax Management
What is earwax production?
Earwax (cerumen) production is a completely natural process of a yellowish sticky substance produced in the ear canal, by secretions from glands that line the canal. Wax is then carried to the opening of the ear where it dries out and falls away.
Earwax helps to protect the ear by keeping it clean and lubricated; this also helps to keep the nasty germs and fungi away therefore protecting the ear against infections.
What are the most popular methods of wax removal?
In a nutshell the most popular earwax management methods are:
- Ear irrigators and syringes
- Cotton swabs* and solutions
Wow, that was really brief. And now more explanations…
ENTs (ear, nose and throat) specialists perform approximately one million ear-care procedures every year. One million is a huge number. But once you have learnt that wax production is a completely normal and healthy process that figure should not come as a surprise. So while the wax production is a completely healthy process, the excess of cerumen might cause some health issues, but we will come to that later.
The most popular methods in cerumen removal are ear irrigation and the use of curettes. Ear irrigation is a procedure which involves fluid being injected under pressure to remove the accumulated wax. The pressure is adjusted to an adult’s auditory canal (3 ml/sec). Hence not all ear irrigators are recommended for children under 12 years old; only at this age teenagers can switch to adult devices but younger than that the stream in ear irrigator should be 2 ml/sec.
Most irrigation units need constant check on the temperature in order to avoid caloric repose. However, there are some irrigators available on the market, such as Earigator, that have fully automated temperature and pressure controls to make life easier for hearing care professionals and their patients.
The curette technique does not require liquid nor pressure but patience and precision. The excessive wax is scooped out with a curette – a little handle with a shaped tip. Curettes might come in with different endings, materials (metal or plastic) and sizes. Some of them might even come with a separate source of light enabling professionals to perform minor medical procedures with ease and efficacy. Popular single-use curettes from Bionix come in 8 different endings (including Infant scoop) and colours. Bionix curettes available from PC Werth webstore can also be available with separate light source and lenses. For the whole range of Bionix curettes refer to the webstore.
You can also take care of your ears at home but make sure you won’t damage your eardrum. The most popular solutions for home wax management are cotton swabs and solutions. While applying cotton swabs make sure you do not press more wax in instead of removing it and be careful not to pierce the eardrum. In order to avoid that you should work out along the surface of the ear canal rather than pushing in.
Why is wax removal needed if wax production is a natural process?
Getting older is also a natural process yet lots of people would not mind slowing it down or getting rid of it altogether. So when it comes to excessive wax production, being as natural as it may, it can cause pressure on the eardrum or blockage of the ear canal and impair hearing.
Most common issues arising from excessive cerumen:
- Temporarily hearing loss
- Tinnitus, pain, dizziness
- Malfunctioning of hearing aids such as whistling
- Ear Infections
Why cerumen management is important for hearing aids and ear moulds wearers?
Excessive ear wax is particularly a problem for the people wearing hearing aids and earplugs. While the latter are removed more frequently from the ear, the patients with hearing aids suffer most as they need to wear them most of the time. The hearing aids and ear moulds themselves can block the ear canal, meaning that the cerumen is not expelled from the ear canal in a normal way. Cerumen can also block the ear mould tubing, preventing the sound from reaching the ear.
In that case normal cerumen management procedures, proceeded by use softening agent in the ear such as almond or olive oil, suggested by your local GP, audiologist or ENT department need to take place.
*ENT UK’s official advice is against the use of cotton swabs