Cerumen (“earwax”) is a naturally-produced secretion that is reported to be a self-cleaning agent produced in the ears to protect, lubricate, and to provide antibacterial properties. It consists of a mixture of water-soluble viscous secretions. Ironically, earwax is actually not a wax at all.

Unless there is a blockage, it is best to leave earwax alone. Earwax is healthy in normal amounts and has been reported to provide beneficial properties such as:

  • Serving as a self-cleaning agent of the ear canal 
  • Lubrication of the ear canal to prevent desiccation (drying), itching, and burning of the skin,
  • Infection protection by slowing a range of strains of bacteria and fungi growth 
  • Maintains the ear canal’s acid balance 

Still, ear canals should be cleaned when enough earwax accumulates to cause symptoms or to prevent a needed assessment of the ear by the audiologist. This blockage condition is called “cerumen impaction”. Earwax that is causing problems can be removed by your audiologist.

If you are not getting routine examinations from your audiologist then these are the symptoms that may indicate the earwax has blocked the ear canal:

  • Pus or blood drains from your ear, your ears are ringing or feel full, partial hearing loss, which may be progressive, earache, fullness in the ear, or a sensation the ear is plugged, tinnitus, ringing, or noises in the ear, itching, odor, or discharge or coughing 

Manual removal of earwax is normally effective and is most often performed by an audiologist using special miniature instruments (curettes/ear picks), a microscope, and suction.

SOURCES FOR THIS MATERIAL: Hearing Health & Technology Matters, Wayne Staab