For many of us, removing earwax is a regular routine. Even a slight itch in the ears can trigger our desire to remove earwax. Fingers, hairclips, cotton swabs, and anything else that can come handy is used to remove earwax. Some people may also be obsessed about removing earwax, based on the thinking that it’s a dirty thing to have in the ears.
The seemingly gunky substance called earwax certainly looks bad and not at all hygienic. But what’s the truth about earwax? Is removing earwax a good habit? What doctors say about removing earwax? Well, to answer such questions, here are some important things we need to know about earwax.
What is earwax?
In medical terms, earwax is referred to as cerumen. It’s a waxy substance that could have brown, red, gray, yellow or orange colors. It is produced naturally in the ear canal. Earwax is primarily composed of fatty acids, cholesterol, squalene, and alcohols.
What is purpose of earwax?
- Lubrication – The human body does everything for a reason. In case of earwax, one of the primarily functions is to keep the inside of our ears lubricated. Without earwax, the inside of ears will dry up and become scaly. It can lead to further complications like itching and infections. Earwax primarily comprises fatty acids, which works as an effective lubricant.
- Cleaning – Cleaning the ears is another important function of earwax. It is necessary to remove dead skin from inside the ears. Estimates indicate that earwax comprises around 60% dead skin cells or keratin. Without earwax, the dead skin may move deeper inside the ear causing various health issues.
- Anti-microbial effects – Earwax is also known for its antimicrobial properties. It can work against bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae and various types of Escherichia coli. Earwax can also inhibit the growth of certain types of fungi.
- Dust and Debris – Earwax protects our ears from dust and debris. The waxy substance traps the particles that may enter the ear. In effect, earwax works like a filter for the ears.
Should you remove earwax?
As may be evident from above facts, earwax actually offers numerous benefits. So, removing earwax may not actually be needed in normal cases. Earwax itself is automatically removed through the movement of our jaws. For example, it happens when we are eating or chewing something. Partially dried or fully dried earwax will move out of the inner ear and travel towards the outer ear. There, it will be automatically removed through normal everyday activities.
As such, removing earwax is not necessary at all. Furthermore, doctors never recommended the idea of putting things inside the ears. It can push the earwax inside the ears or can cause bruises that can lead to infection. Cases have also been seen where removing earwax has caused rupture of the eardrum.
Due to these reasons, it’s best to avoid removing earwax. In case you are experiencing some issues in your ears, the better way will be to consult a doctor.