Ear wax is produced by glands in the ear canal. So long as the ear canal remains a moist, the wax will remain the consistency of a warm candle. But just as a marching band can have too many tubas, the ear canal can build up too much wax.
Here’s how you discover a build-up of excess wax: ear pain, tinnitus (ringing or other phantom sounds), difficulty hearing, balance problems, and/or temporary deafness after you’ve submerged your head in water.
What Causes Excessive Ear Wax?
The presence of ear wax can be irritating and inconvenient, but the only real danger it poses is that it could shelter and incubate an ear infection. For most people, the wax sheds itself when you sleep and when you move your jaw. Presumably, big eaters and people who talk a lot have fewer problems.
Some people are more prone to yellow waxy buildup. Wax builds up due to overactive glands and aging. People with narrow ear canals, charmingly hairy ear canals, inflammatory skin conditions, or those who work in very dusty environments can also have problem ear wax. Sometimes it can be prevented through diet. Supposedly, a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids will discourage wax buildup. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in things like avocados, ground flax seed, walnuts, and certain fish, like salmon and albacore tuna. Pasteurized dairy products have been shown to have an irritating effect on some people’s ears, and this could produce a waxy reaction.
How to Remove Ear Wax
The more wax you get, the better it is to get rid of the stuff regularly to forestall any infections. When you shower, tilt your head slightly and briefly to let a little hot water run in one ear. Tilt your head to the other side to let the water escape. Do the same with the other ear. This may heat the wax to the point where it melts and runs out of your ears on its own. You may need nothing more.
But the stuff could still continue to build up. Fear not, there’s more you can do, assuming you don’t have a perforated ear drum, something your doctor would apprise you of after sticking a little scope in your ears.
If you’re too much of a cheapskate to go to the pharmacy and purchase some ear drops, you can heat olive oil to body temperature (no hotter!) and put a few drops in each ear. Use a bit of cotton to keep the stuff from running out and staining your collar. Do this for three or four days, then use an ear syringe or a large hypodermic syringe (without the needle, of course) to flush your ears with tepid water. Make sure you don’t get the tip of the syringe too close to your eardrum, which could make a blast of water dangerous.
At the drugstore, you can purchase a kit containing ear drops, an ear syringe, and a basin for catching the drainage. If you don’t know how to squeeze an ear syringe by yourself or are afraid of damaging your ear drum, go to the doctor’s office, where a nurse will clean your ears for you. They love doing things like that. If it’s still not budging, they may try to suction out the stubborn wax. Alternatively, the doc may simply go in with a little hook and pull it out. Don’t try that at home, people.
Warning!: Do not use Q-tips to clean your ears! In fact, don’t so much as stick your finger in there, as good as that may feel, because any of those things could damage your eardrum. At a minimum, they will be counterproductive and only push the wax deeper into the ear canal.
Ear Wax Candles?
Ear candling as a technique for removing ear wax is a practice that has been traced back over 4500 years ago. It is still practiced today, much to the horror of otolaryngology specialists who consider it dangerous. It must be performed by a specialist using special “candles” which are cotton sheets that have been soaked with beeswax in the shape of a cone. The cone is placed in your ear and set afire to burn slowly. After a some time, the specialist extinguishes the fire. Heat convection supposedly wicks out whatever wax, debris, and microorganisms have lodged in your ears, and the flame conveniently turns the exudates into vapor. There is no pain involved. The treatment may be completed by putting drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ears. Proponents claim that a candling every six months can relieve not only ear pain, reduced hearing, and balance difficulties, but also sinus conditions and migraines. Opponents claim that a treatment every six months is merely an effective way of cleaning out your wallet.