Cerumen, commonly known as earwax, is produced by the body to keep the ear canal clean and protect it. It collects all the dirt, dust particles and other matter which might get into the ear otherwise and cause damage. This protects the ear canal from harmful outside particles. People commonly associate earwax with bad personal hygiene and go out of their way to clean it.
Here is why you shouldn’t
Earwax is important for the ears
As we go through our every day lives, we see that layers of dust and dirt accumulate on our skin. Sometimes these foreign particles which land on our body are abrasive and we get minor cuts from them. Now imagine the same thing happening to your ears. Just like the exposed skin on our body, these particles land on our ear as well. But unlike the skin, we cannot wash our ear canals. Earwax is produced by the body to protect your ears from damage by outside. As foreign particles land on the opening of the ear canal, it it trapped by the earwax, preventing it from entering further.
The ears are self cleaning
Unlike what it is popularly believed, earwax is not a sign of poor hygiene. It is not clean because it contains the trapped dust particles, dirt etc, which would have otherwise accumulated inside the ear canal. Everyday activities like chewing, moving, talking, laughing etc pushes the old dirty earwax outside, making way for clean fresh cerumen. As we bathe and clean ourselves, the dirty eawax is cleaned off. This is the body’s unique self cleaning mechanism to keep your ear canal safe. Hence you do not usually need to go out of the way to clean your earwax.
Cleaning can be harmful
Most people use things like q tips, hairpins, paper clips and other such thin objects to clean out earwax but this can cause more damage than good. Firstly, most of these end up pushing the earwax deeper into the ear canal. This can lead to an accumulation of earwax which can cause a blockage of the ear canal. Moreover, it is extremely unsafe to insert a foreign object into the ear canal. It can cause serious and even permanent damage. A sharp foreign object like a hairpin can cause different degrees of harm raging from scraping the ear canal to perforating the eardrum. These can result in pain, bleeding, discomfort and loss of hearing.
Risk of infection and irritation
Constantly trying to clean your ears can result in irritation of the ear canal. Just like rubbing a part of the skin over and over can lead to an irritated and itchy skin, the same happens to the ear as well if one constantly cleans it. Q tips only push the earwax further inside, which can cause a build up and temporary loss of hearing, till the earwax is removed by a doctor. Moreover, an unsterilised foreign object like a hairpin or clip can cause severe harm. It can contain harmful bacteria which can lead to severe ear infections. Not only is an ear infection extremely painful, it can affect hearing as well as the person’s body balance. Therefore, it is not at all safe to insert anything into the ear canal. Some infections can also cause permanent damage.
Maintaining good personal hygiene like taking regular showers is the key to keeping your ears clean. Despite that, sometimes earwax can accumulate in the ear canal, causing discomfort. Sometimes, it can even affect hearing, as it blocks the ear canal. If there is a wax build up near the surface of the outer ear, the best and the safest thing to do is to clean it away gently with a damp piece of sterilised cotton. If you feed discomfort or loss of hearing the best thing is to consult an ENT specialist and get your earwax cleaned safely by a trained medical professional.