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Why you should never remove wax from your ears

Surprising reasons you should never remove wax from your ears

A man cleaning his ear using an ear bud

In a world where personal hygiene is given utmost importance, it's common for people to take every measure to ensure they are clean from head to toe.

This often includes the ears, where the presence of earwax can seem like a sign of uncleanliness to many.

However, before you reach for that cotton swab, it's crucial to understand why earwax, plays an essential role in our health.

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Ear wax, medically known as cerumen, is not mere 'waste' but a critical part of our body's natural defense system. It serves several key functions:

  • Protection: Ear wax forms a protective barrier, preventing dust, bacteria, and other foreign particles from entering and damaging the ear canal.
  • Cleaning and Lubrication: Contrary to the belief that ear wax is a sign of uncleanliness, it cleans and lubricates the ear canal, preventing dry, itchy ears.
  • Antibacterial Properties: Ear wax contains natural antibacterial properties that help prevent infections within the ear canal.
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While it might be tempting to reach for a cotton swab to keep your ears feeling fresh and clean, over-cleaning could lead to more harm than good. Here's why:

  • Impaction: Over-cleaning can push wax deeper into the ear canal, leading to impaction. This can cause discomfort, hearing loss, and even infections.
  • Loss of Protection: Removing too much wax strips away the ear's natural protection, making it more vulnerable to infections and damage.
  • Ear Damage: The skin inside the ear canal is delicate. Aggressive cleaning can cause cuts and abrasions, leading to infections and pain.

Our bodies are designed to manage ear wax effectively without external intervention. The movement of our jaw (while talking or eating) helps to slowly move ear wax out of the canal, where it eventually dries up and falls out naturally.

This self-cleaning process means that for most people, ear wax does not need to be manually removed.

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There are instances where medical intervention might be necessary:

  • Excessive Buildup: Some people naturally produce more wax, or it doesn't clear out well, leading to blockages.
  • Hearing Changes: If you experience sudden hearing loss or persistent hearing changes, it's important to consult a professional.
  • Discomfort or Pain: If there's discomfort, pain, or a sensation of fullness in the ears, professional evaluation can help.

In such cases, visiting a healthcare provider is the safest way to address the issue. They can remove excess wax safely or treat any underlying conditions without risking your ear health.

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For most people, cleaning the outer ear with a damp cloth during a shower is sufficient. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal, as this can lead to injury and infection.

If you're concerned about earwax buildup, over-the-counter ear drops are available to help soften the wax, making it easier for the ear to expel it naturally.

This content was created with the help of an AI model and verified by the writer.

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