Written by Amy Pusey (last updated April 22, 2009)
I am one among countless others who suffered through painful earaches as a child. In fact, until the age of five or six, I could probably sum up that entire time period as one big earache, but it did not stop there. A never-ending stream of colds and earaches turned into constantly clogged ears, which forced an endless routine of visits to an ENT specialist (that is, ear, nose, and throat.) So frequent were my visits to the doctor, my mom should have been enrolled in a frequent visitor program, and received discounts on services or gifts just for showing up, yet again. In the end, those constant nasty buildups required the insertion of tubes, which greatly improved the proper expulsion of wax, as well as my overall hearing.
The proper medical term for ear wax is Cerumen, named for the sweat glands in the ear canal which secrete oil that protects the inner ear, and helps the migration of debris to the outer ear with the aid of very tiny, fine hairs. Ear wax, in general, is normal, and a thin layer within the canal is actually protective because it helps prevent the growth of fungi and certain bacteria. An ear that is healthy will continually work to keep itself clean. That is why doctors often proclaim the dangers of using different devices to thoroughly cleanse the ear canal. Depending on how and when a cleaning object is used, wax can actually shift and further affect hearing, or can be pushed closer toward the ear drum and become impacted. When this happens, there may be no alternative than to go see an ENT to have the blockage properly removed.
I tend to use the cotton swabs right inside the canal of the outer ear. When it is used at this location, it is removing ear wax that is a great distance from where it began near the ear drum. I will admit, there have been occasions when I have not been paying attention while using the swabs, and accidently pushed them deep into the ear canal causing a sudden twinge of pain. Definitely not the most pleasant feeling, but it reminds me to pay attention to what I am doing, so I do not cause myself harm by posing the risk of penetrating the ear drum.
Unfortunately, sometimes even proper ear care can still result in an unusually full sensation or impacted wax within the ear canal, and requires the assistance of a medical professional, which in addition to a doctor, may also include a nurse or audiologist, who is a specialist in hearing disorders. This can develop for a number of reasons, like, ongoing health problems, natural aging process, or the use of hearing aid devices.
There are certain tell-tale signs that you may be experiencing a buildup or impaction of ear wax. They are:
One thing is for certain, by ignoring a buildup of wax or its worst case scenario, impacted wax; you can develop a very painful dilemma. While it is not a dangerous or life-altering health problem, it can be quite annoying and disruptive to your daily activities. There are a number of remedies used today to help maintain healthy, clean ear canals. Some of these you can use at home and others must be performed in a doctor's office. For example, treatments may include:
There are certain home remedies that are safe to use and will do an adequate job. Any home treatments should be conducted with the utmost care and precision, so as not the damage the ear drum. These may include:
Whatever solution you should choose to eliminate your ear wax problems, always be certain it is performed in a well-lighted area, and whoever is working to cleanse the ear canal has a strong headlamp or hand light to thoroughly see what they are doing. This precaution will prevent risk of injury to the canal and ear drum.
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