You may have been instructed to clean your ears as part of regular hygiene practices, but you may be surprised to know that very little is needed! Your ears are self-cleaning, making them one of the easiest areas of the body to maintain!

Is All Earwax Bad?

Not really. In fact, there is a big misconception about how much earwax is too much. So, if you have an average amount of wax in your ears, it’s safe to leave it be and not worry too much.

There are numerous types of earwax as well. The consistency can vary from person to person, depending on health status and their environment. For example, those who spend time swimming will produce wax that is more water-resistant than their dryer counterparts.

What is the Purpose of Earwax?

Earwax generally performs one or more of these functions: waterproofing, lubrication and protection from bacteria. In the past, it was thought that earwax acted as an insect repellant as well, but this has been disproven by modern science.

The job of producing the wax is performed by a special set of glands in your outer ear canal called vestibular glands. These produce a waxy oil called sebum.

The sebum mixes with dead skin cells to form a substance also made up of protein and fatty acids called keratin. This substance stays in the ear until you clean it out, at which point your body usually re-absorbs it.

What Methods of Earwax Removal Are There?

Typically, people only need to clean their ears when earwax builds-up enough that they start experiencing symptoms or if someone else notices the wax in their ears and asks them about it. Symptoms you might experience include: feeling like you have buildup in your ears, hearing sounds in your head, difficulty hearing very high frequencies, vertigo and itching inside the ear canal.

If you do not remove this wax on a regular basis, bacteria can begin to grow in your ear canal, which may lead to infection. There are two primary ways of removing earwax: softening with water and syringing or manual removal by a qualified hearing specialist.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Ears?

Earwax that is not removed has the potential to cause a number of problems for those who cannot remove it. If you have a buildup in your ears, your hearing can be affected as the earwax enters deeper into the canal and closer to the eardrum. In rare cases, this can lead to partial deafness or even full hearing loss.

Furthermore, leaving excessive wax in your ear may cause an infection which leads to itching inside your ears and sometimes fever as well. This type of infection is known as otitis externa or swimmers. When caught early on, treatments are usually effective at remedying the issue.

The wax itself can also lead to other conditions such as contact dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction that causes red rashes on the skin. If your ears are severely impacted by earwax, you should consult your audiologist. An audiologist will be able to give you advice that will help soften the wax, then remove it for you if necessary.