Cerumen, more commonly known as earwax, is a sticky substance created in the ear canal to keep your ears safe. While you may never have paid your earwax much attention, it plays a crucial role in your health. Understanding what is normal and when something is wrong can help you seek help faster to prevent irreversible damage.
Why Do We Need Earwax?
Earwax has a number of important roles, including:
- Moisturizing the skin of the ear canal, preventing dry skin and an itchy ear.
- Preventing dust, dirt and debris from entering the ear.
Earwax Colors and Textures
Healthy earwax is a light yellow or orange color and wet or sticky in consistency. The darker and dryer the earwax gets, the older it is. Earwax can be other colors, however:
- Green earwax is a sign of an infection.
- Earwax with blood indicates an injury to the ear or a ruptured eardrum.
- Gray earwax means there is a buildup of dust or other debris in the ear.
- Black earwax tells you there is impacted earwax, which can also cause temporary hearing loss.
Safely Remove Excess Earwax
If you are prone to earwax buildup, your ear, nose and throat doctor may give you permission to remove the excess at home. Always get medical approval before attempting this, as you could damage your ear if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Baby oil, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide can be used to soften the earwax. Place the liquid in an eyedropper and add a few drops to the ear canal.
After a few days the earwax should be softened. Use a rubber-bulb syringe to squirt warm water into your ear canal. Pull on your ear while tilting your head to help straighten your ear canal. Once you are finished, tip your head to the other side to drain out all the water.
You will then need to dry your outer ear with the use of a towel or a hair dryer set on low.
This may need to be repeated a few times before all the excess earwax has fallen out.
Clean Your Ear
Keeping up with routine ear cleaning can prevent impacted earwax in the future. The good news is this can be easily incorporated into your daily shower routine.
Instead of inserting anything into your ear, such as a cotton swab, which can push the earwax deeper into the ear, washing the ear with mild soap and water is all that is needed. Rinse the ear with the streams of water from the shower to clean away any wax.
To learn more about earwax or how to properly clean your ear, contact the experts at Augusta ENT today.