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What is earwax?

As one of the body's many naturally-occurring protective substances, earwax is incredibly useful to our wellbeing. But what exactly is earwax? Put simply, it is an oily material that is produced by glands within the ear canal, designed to trap dust, to protect the ear canal skin lining and to reduce the likelihood of bacterial infection. If your ears were entirely free of earwax, they would be very sore and dry and more prone to infection.

In the past, earwax has been considered a valuable substance, used as a salve for puncture wounds or even as a lip balm. In modern society, visible earwax it is often assumed to be a sign of poor personal hygiene, which couldn't be further from the truth. However, maintaining a healthy level of earwax is key - too little and you might succumb to bacterial infections, too much and it can compact, causing temporary hearing loss.

Problems and complications

Earwax is usually harmless, but if you have particularly hard wax or too much compacted in the ear, it can cause some pain. If you suffer from frequent ear infections, flaky skin near the ear or hair in the ear canals, you may find that you have a heightened risk of developing earwax problems.

If earwax comes into contact with the eardrum, it can cause discomfort and vertigo, a sensation that makes you feel as if you are moving even when standing still.

If your earwax is thought to be excessive, you might be asked to undergo ear irrigation, a procedure that uses water to flush out excess wax. This procedure is usually harmless, although the following complications can arise:

  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • External ear infection (otitis externa)
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Vertigo
  • Ear pain
  • Worsening of pre-existing tinnitus
  • Damage to the external auditory meatus (the tube that connects the outer and middle ear)

What can I do?

To limit your chance of developing problems relating to your earwax, it is highly advisable that you avoid putting objects directly into your ears, such as cotton buds or hair pins.

At Amplifon, we offer Wax Removal services for €50 (both ears) and support to help you maintain healthy ears. If you'd like to take up this service, you can call us on 1800 44 11 55 to book an appointment.