Let's talk about earwax, which you can call cerumen if you’re feeling fancy.
Generally, people don’t spend much time thinking about their earwax, but it’s actually pretty interesting stuff.
Firstly, earwax isn’t wax. Cerumen is made up of a combination of sebum (an oily substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands), skin cells from the ear canal, sweat and dirt.
Secondly, cerumen has an important purpose. The ear produces it to clean and protect itself. It has natural antimicrobial properties to prevent bacterial infections. It also traps dust and other particles before they can get deeper in your ear canal and cause bigger problems. When you chew or talk, the muscles in your ear canal push the cerumen, and the debris trapped in it, outward to exit the canal.
Another interesting fact is that not all earwax is the same. It’s greatly controlled by genetics. Cerumen can be either wet or dry, with most people having wet earwax because it’s the dominant gene. The consistency of cerumen can change based on your environment and diet.
Despite how cool cerumen is, you can have too much of a good thing. Excess wax can cause issues such as earaches, temporary hearing loss, ear infections, and even a persistent cough if it happens to stimulate the branch of the vagus nerve that runs near the ear canal.
If you have too much wax, sticking cotton swabs, bobby pins or paper clips in your ear is not a good idea. You’ll likely just end up pushing the wax in further, past the point where your ears can excrete it naturally.
Generally, wax can be safely removed by your physician, but many would rather have it done by an audiologist. At Hear Inc. our audiologists are certified to remove cerumen using irrigation (flushing the canal with water), instruments (stainless steal curettes or forceps), or suction (a small vacuum specifically designed for this purpose).
We generally recommend a few drops of olive oil in the ear canals for 3 or 4 nights prior to the appointment to soften up the wax and ease the process. Of course, if you have a hole in your ear drum or have an allergy to olives, other recommendations can be made.
Address: 7159A West Saanich Road
Audiologist: Donna Stewart
Phone: (778) 426-4876
Address: 7819F East Saanich Road
Audiologists: Martine Schlagintweit, Aisling Smyth
Phone: (778) 351-1145
Our audiologists are licensed by, and registrants of, the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of British Columbia.
Any unresolved concerns about our practice may be reported to:
College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of British Columbia
900 - 200 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1S4
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