It is easy to view ear wax as an annoyance, but like most secretions, it has an important purpose. It's a cleaning agent, produced by your ears to prevent them from drying out. It contains protective and anti-bacterial agents to help your ears stay healthy.
However, various factors can cause more wax than is needed to collect in the outer part of the ear canal and if this is left untreated, it can cause pain and eventually require medical intervention. But don't worry, help is at hand in the form of these effective remedies you can try at home!
What is Ear Wax?
'Wax' is something of a misnomer for the body fluid that forms in your ear. It is actually a water-soluble mixture of various secretions mixed with hair and dead skin, formed in the outer part of the ear rather than the inner drum. Your ears are self-cleaning for the most part, and the secretions help move dead skin to the opening of the ear, aided by the jaw motion you use when you chew. Once out in the open, 'wax' will usually dry out and flake away naturally. However over time it can build up and cause other problems, sometimes aided by overproduction or a blockage within the ear canal.
What You Shouldn't Do
Firstly, don't fall into the trap of thinking that digging every last bit of wax out of your ear constantly is an indicator of good personal hygiene. Remember that ear wax has its uses and removing it excessively can cause your ear canal to dry out. However, if it accumulates in excess, it can cause discomfort and even pain. It is in these circumstances that you need to take action.
The other big 'NO' is the use of homemade poking and scraping devices down your ear hole. Q-Tips, bobby pins, pencils and any other similar instruments are NOT suitable for cleaning your ears, no matter how many times you might have used them in the past. Although you may see remnants of wax on your Q-Tip after you have had a good rummage down your ear, you will more than likely have pushed other clumps further into your ear canal. Additionally, if you prod down too far then you could cause serious damage to the inner ear.
Signs You Need to Take Action
Since you don't need to constantly clean the wax out of your ears, what are the signs that you have an excessive buildup that you need to deal with? Different ears produce different amounts of wax. It may be that you know from past experience that you are likely to have excess wax. There are a number of other signs that can indicate a problem too:
You can buy ear drops and wax removal kits or visit your doctor, but the answer to your problems can also be found in natural remedies you can make in your own home. Here are some that have proved useful to many:
N.B. - Please note that these remedies should not be used if you have an ear infection, hearing loss or a severe earache.
1. Salt Water
Salt water is one of the best home remedies for excessive ear wax. It works by softening the wax inside the ear and flushing it out to the surface:
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil can also soften ear wax. It also lists 'antiseptic properties' among its many benefits so it can help reduce your risk of an ear infection as well:
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is used in many of the over-the-counter ear drops you can buy for wax removal. It is important that you don't use this one if you have sensitive skin. Always make sure that the peroxide you use is less than 3% in strength:
4. Vinegar and Rubbing Alcohol Solution
This is a remedy from a bygone age and works by dissolving the ear wax. The antibacterial properties of the vinegar also help keep infection at bay.
5. Baby Oil or Glycerin (Mineral Oil)
If you have either of these products lying around your house, they are great for softening up your excessive ear wax as well:
What To Do If Your Problems Persist
If your ear continues to feel uncomfortable after the application of these natural remedies and/or over-the-counter solutions available from the pharmacy, you will need to book an appointment with your doctor or an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant. You should always consult a medic if you have severe ear ache, large amounts of fluid flowing, severe hearing loss, dizziness, fever and vomiting. Your ears are important, please look after them!