Okpata Okechi is a writer who loves researching different medical phenomena.
The ear, the soft flappy cartilaginous figure found on both sides of the head, is the sense organ for hearing in all members of Kingdom Animalia and a body balance mechanism in mammals.
Numerous nerves are located in the ear, which provides direct access to the body system. The outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear are three component sections of the ear. These are essential components of the human hearing mechanism, which enables a quick interpretation of sounds after hearing them.
How Do Ears Hear?
In summary, the eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane, receives sound waves from the outer ear and transmits them. The sound is then sent from the middle ear to the inner ear. Sound waves are transformed into electrical impulses at the inner ear, which are subsequently transmitted to the brain via nerves. After the brain interprets these signals, the person may hear and comprehend the sounds in a matter of milliseconds.
What Is Ear Wax?
Cerumen, commonly known as earwax, is that irksome semi-solid matter that is created in your ear canal. It assumes the name “wax” because of its waxy texture, created as a result of the mix of dead skin cells with oils secreted by the sebaceous glands of the ear.
Benefits of Ear Wax
In the habit of cleaning out your ear wax regularly? Here are 3 health benefits of ear wax you probably didn't know.
1. Anti-Microbial Properties
Ear wax has antibacterial and antifungal properties because it is slightly acidic. This prevents the entry of tiny insects, germs, and other foreign bodies into the ear.
2. Natural Cleansing Mechanism
Dirt and dead skin cells in the auditory canal are flushed out during the beating of the eardrum. Hence, ear wax is a special mechanism by which the ear cleans itself.
3. Lubricating Properties
Ear wax contains oils that lubricate the skin of the outer ear, thus preventing dryness.
Earwax is like a filter for your ears, keeping out harmful things like dirt and dust, and trapping them so they don’t go deep inside.
When you chew and move your jaw, you help move old earwax out of the ear canal to the ear opening.
Not Enough Earwax?
Excessive cleaning of the ear causes a negligible quantity of ear wax. This leads to dryness of the ear skin and a strong feeling of itchiness in one’s auditory canal. If this results in an infection, you can try using essential oils to combat the discomfort.
Essential Oils for Ear Infections
The best essential oils for combating ear infections are ones that are high in antibacterial content. One study conducted in 2014 used a mixture of clove, lavender, and herb-Robert essential oils (known together as Lamigex) to combat ear infections. The result showed that Lamigex was just as effective in treating ear infection symptoms as medicated ear drops.
It is important to note that you should never place raw essential oil anywhere on your body. The concentration of these oils is so high that it can easily burn or irritate the affected area. Mixing one drop of essential oil with two teaspoons of a carrier oil (such as olive or coconut) before carefully dropping it in or around your ear can help prevent further irritation.
Also note that only a few drops of this mixture should be inserted into the ear at one time. MedicalNewsToday recommends soaking a cotton ball in the oil and setting it on the outside of your ear, so the mixture can leak in slowly.
Too Much Earwax?
Too much cerumen in the ear is described as layers of wax being driven into the auditory canal with a cotton swab, cotton bud, ballpen end, or pencil. Cerumen builds up as a result, which causes transient hearing loss.
If you find you have too much ear wax (indicated by a loss of hearing, a feeling of "fullness" in your ear, or itchy discharge), consult a doctor right away. A doctor will be able to remove wax without causing any additional damage. You may also try the essential oil method mentioned above, or over-the-counter ear drops.
How to Care for Your Ears Safely
The first thought in your mind was probably, "Oh! That’s very easy; I could use cotton swabs to clean out my ear wax!" but it will interest you to know that the use of cotton swabs to clean the inner ear is very dangerous. Why?
Why Are Cotton Swabs Bad for Your Ears?
Although it is undeniable that there is a momentary feeling of relief after inserting a cotton swab into the ear, this soothing feeling is only a resting ground for the latter immense havoc which is to manifest.
Using cotton swabs in your ears can damage inner ear structures. According to a publication from Healthline, 73% of ear injuries were associated with swabbing.
Using cotton swabs in your ears can damage inner ear structures. According to a publication from Healthline, 73% of ear injuries were associated with swabbing, and it documented 80 eardrum ruptures.
Cotton swab pushes the wax deep into the auditory canal, resulting in the accumulation of ear wax layers that should have been removed through the natural cleansing mechanism of the ear. This excess ear wax buildup causes pain, dizziness, and a weighty feeling in the ear.
How to Properly Clean Your Ears
Below are some of the best ways to clean your ears (without cotton swabs or ear candles!).
- Visit a professional ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor to remove the wax.
- Clean the ear with a cloth soaked in warm water.
- Gently clean the ear with a rubber bulb syringe filled with warm water or saline.
Ensure you visit the doctor when your ears ache. It may be a sign of too much ear wax or the presence of an ear infection.
Finally, the ears, just like your eyes, hair, skin, and teeth, are crucial parts of the body and so, they deserve great care and attention. Your sense of hearing matters a lot. Cheers!
Sources and Further Reading
- Harvard Health: 3 Reasons to Leave Ear Wax Alone
- KidsHealth.org: What Is Ear Wax?
- WebMD: How to Clean Your Ears
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.