Cerumen, also referred to as earwax, is the soft, sticky, gooey, or flakey substance that can be found within our ears. Earwax is made up of secretions from glands within the ear canal and dead hair and skin cells. It can vary in color and texture depending on the chemistry of one’s body and how long it has been in the canal. It is completely normal and serves an important purpose. Earwax helps to lubricate the skin within the ear canal, protect our ears from debris, foreign objects, water, and bacteria. Although it is okay to clean ears regularly, having small amounts of earwax can help to the keep the ear healthy. Your ear is also self-cleaning, and most people’s earwax will dry up and fall out on its own naturally.
Having some earwax is a good thing but having too much earwax can cause discomfort and a temporary loss of hearing as sounds are not able to reach the eardrum. It is important to get excessive earwax removed by a licensed healthcare professional to prevent possible injury to the skin of the ear canal or eardrum.
Using cotton swabs and other objects such as ear candles, bobby pins, or pencils can be dangerous and ineffective. Cotton swabs typically push wax deeper into the ear canal making it more difficult to remove and prone to build up and cause hearing loss. Similarly, the cotton fibers begin to collect in your ear and mix with the already existing earwax making an ear plug that doesn’t allow sound to get to the eardrum, which a person may perceive as a loss of hearing.