What is earwax?
Everyone has earwax. Sweat glands inside the outer ear canal produce it to protect the ear canal and eardrum from foreign materials. It is made up of a mixture of skin exfoliation and secretions sebaceous and ceruminous glands, fatty acids, minerals and skin proteins.
There are three types of wax:
Semi-liquid consistency – typically found in children and babies
Solid consistency – typically found in adults and the elderly
Hard consistency – also found mainly in adults and the elderly
What contributes to excess earwax?
Some people are more prone to excess earwax than others, and there are several factors that may contribute to excess wax in the ear, including:
Physiology: A narrow shaped ear canal may trap excess earwax. This is often seen in children.
Hair: The amount of hair in the ear, seen primarily in men.
Environment: Working in dusty or dirty environments, particularly outdoors. In environments such as these, the ear may produce excess wax as a means to block dirt, etc. from entering the ear canal.
Skin disorders: Certain conditions of the skin or scalp may contribute to excess earwax production.
Frequent hearing aid/headset users: Placing anything in the ear that keeps it sealed for a period of time may increase the production of wax, which can then lead to discomfort when using hearing aids or headsets.
Swimmers: Frequently submerging the ears in water may contribute to increased wax production.
Cotton buds: The use of cotton buds may actually push wax deeper into the ear, thus producing a blockage.
How do you know if you have excessive wax build-up?
There are several symptoms that indicate you may have a build-up of earwax, including:
- Difficulty hearing
- Pain in the ear or ears
- Ringing noise in the ears
- A feeling of blockage in the ears
- Temporary deafness after swimming or taking a shower or bath.