We need our earwax to protect our ears, but how should we handle having too much of a good thing?
Here’s a hint: Not by digging fingers into our ears!
First things first, why is earwax important to us?
Earwax accomplishes 3 BIG things:
- Lubrication: Earwax is a great mixture of sweat, skin cells, and hair particles. It coats the inside of your ear and prevents the canal from getting dry and itchy!
- Protection: The wax that your body produces helps prevent harmful bacteria from growing inside your sensitive ears, as well as protects it from dirt and water.
- Cleaning: Chewing and talking actually helps your earwax work its way out of the ear! Did you hear that? Your earwax works its way out of your ear by itself. I said once, I’m going to say it again–don’t use your fingers or cotton swabs!
Though your ear does produce, use, and discard of its wax, sometimes we simply produce more than needed.
Earwax buildup often becomes more frequent as individuals age, due to earwax glands (ceruminous glands) shrinking. As they shrink the earwax to dries out. Furthermore, dead skin particles build up continuously, and the ear’s ability to lubricate and clean itself is less effective.
Buildup can also occur from regular earbuds use, from fingers, and other foreign objects being shoved into your ears. These bacteria-coated, blunt-tipped objects push your naturally occurring wax deeper into your ear canal which can lead to a buildup of earwax.
Dr. Piers Dawes, lecturer in audiology at the University of Manchester, suggests using a minimal amount of olive oil in the ears to help loosen up the wax deposit.
However, he urges against the use of cotton swabs. “Using cotton buds to try and extract the wax is a bad idea which can actually compact the wax against the ear drum, making the problem worse and potentially leading to infection.”
Using olive oil to remove impacted earwax:
- Warm the olive oil, and place in a dropper
- Lie on your side and with someone’s help, place a few drops in your ear
- Stay on your side for a few minutes as the olive oil works
- Sit up and use a tissue or napkin to clean the oil and wax as it comes out your ear
For some, this olive oil will be enough to dislodge the wax from the ear canal, but for others, more than one application of the oil will be required. Though olive oil is a simple, at-home treatment, its efficacy is not guaranteed.