The ear canal is shaped like a funnel. The skin of the outer part of the canal has glands that produce wax, also called cerumen. The main purpose of the wax is to trap dust or particles to keep them from reaching the ear drum. The wax can hamper the growth of bacteria/fungus in the ear canal by making the environment more acidic. Most of the time the wax moves to the outside of the ear and dries, flakes, or falls out. This process can be likened to the movement of a conveyor belt with the wax being transported from a point in front of the ear drum to the outer ear.
Probing your ears with Q-tips, bobby pins, twisted tissues, washcloths, toothpicks, or other similar items can interfere with the natural movement of the ear wax by pushing it up against the ear drum. Probing your ear with any of the above mentioned items is absolutely NOT necessary to maintain clear ears. In fact, probing your ears with these items can perforate or tear the ear drum, injure the bones of hearing, or the delicate skin of the ear canal, and can sometimes cause severe ear infections and hearing loss.
If you find that your ears are not cleaning themselves naturally B and you are NOT probing them as cautioned above, it may be that your ear canals are very narrow and/or your ears have a faulty wax removal mechanisms. If this is the case, we recommend the use of a half-strength peroxide ear drop such as those sold under the name ADebrox.@ Using these drops every other day will soften the wax and help it to come out more easily.
A similar solution can be mixed at home using water sterilized by boiling it for 5 minutes and mixing the water with an equal part of peroxide. Allow the solution to cool to body temperature before using it. Patients who develop frequent accumulations of ear wax should also see an ear specialist every 3-6 months for the careful and safe removal of ear wax. This removal occasionally requires the use of special instruments in order to avoid injury to the sensitive ear canal.
We enjoy teaching our patients about their medical problems and the treatment plan that we have recommended. We believe that with this education, our patients are more likely to get better and to stay better.
These information sheets are intended for use by our patients in conjunction with regular care from Drs. Siegel and Bosworth. Use of these sheets by others can lead to a delay in diagnosis with potential worsening of health. If you are not one of our patients, please schedule an appointment so that we can help you to feel better as soon as possible.