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Earwax There to Protect Your Hearing, Doctors Say
If it builds up, seek medical attention, otherwise leave it alone, guidelines advise

By Robert Preidt

TUESDAY, Jan. 3, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Trying to remove your earwax can lead to ear damage, doctors warn.

The body produces earwax (or "cerumen") to clean and protect ears. The wax collects dirt, dust and other matter, preventing them from getting farther into the ear, according to an updated clinical practice guideline from the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

"There is an inclination for people to want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness. This misinformation leads to unsafe ear health habits," said Dr. Seth Schwartz, chairman of the guideline update group.

Everyday activities like moving your jaw and chewing help new earwax push old earwax to the ear opening where it flakes off or is washed off during bathing. This is a normal continual process, but sometimes this self-cleaning process fails. The result: a buildup of wax that can partly or fully block the ear canal.

"Patients often think that they are preventing earwax from building up by cleaning out their ears with cotton swabs, paper clips, ear candles, or any number of unimaginable things that people put in their ears," Schwartz said in an academy news release.

"The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted farther into the ear canal," he explained.

"Anything that fits in the ear could cause serious harm to the ear drum and canal with the potential for temporary or even permanent damage," Schwartz warned.

The guidelines, published Jan. 3 in the journal Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, state that excessive cleaning may irritate the ear canal, cause infection and even increase the chances of wax buildup, or cerumen impaction.

The new guidelines offer some tips on how to protect your ears:

  • Don't overdo it when cleaning your ears. Overcleaning can irritate the ear canal and possibly cause an infection.
  • Don't stick things in your ear. Cotton swabs, hair pins and toothpicks can cause a cut in the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, and/or dislocation of the hearing bones, causing problems including hearing loss, dizziness and ringing.
  • Never use "ear candles." The guidelines say there is no evidence that this alternative medicine practice can remove impacted earwax. And so-called candling might cause serious damage to the ear canal and eardrum.
  • Do seek medical attention if you have hearing loss, ear fullness, drainage, bleeding or ear pain.
  • Do consult your medical provider to find out if you can treat cerumen impaction at home. Certain medical or ear conditions make some treatments unsafe, the authors of the guidelines explained.

More information

The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery has more on earwax.

SOURCE: American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, news release, Jan. 3, 2017

Copyright © 2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=718061

Resources from HONselect: HONselect is the HON's medical search engine. It retrieves scientific articles, images, conferences and web sites on the selected subject.
Ear
Hearing
Ear Canal
Neck
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Cerumen
Infection
The list of medical terms above are retrieved automatically from the article.

Disclaimer: The text presented on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for your information only and may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
Be advised that HealthDay articles are derived from various sources and may not reflect your own country regulations. The Health On the Net Foundation does not endorse opinions, products, or services that may appear in HealthDay articles.


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