Ear Wax Removal
Ear wax, or cerumen, is a natural byproduct of the ear’s self-cleaning system. Made up of secretions and skin cells, ear wax lubricates the ear and helps slide bacteria and dirt out of the ear canal. Ear wax in not an indication of personal hygiene! In fact, use of Q-tips can interrupt this delicate system by pushing wax deeper into the canal and can even damage the ear. For some people, however, the ear makes more ear wax than it can handle.
Symptoms of wax buildup include:
- Ear fullness or pressure
- Muffled hearing
- Itching and discharge
If you suspect that ear wax may be impacting your hearing or ear health, speak with your primary care physician or an audiologist. Otoscopy (ear examination) will determine how much wax is in the ear and whether it is a problem. Health professionals have several ways to safely remove ear wax, including a lighted curette, suction or irrigation. At the UNC HCC, our
audiologists will review your medical history prior to wax removal to minimize risks of infection. Best practice standards of care are applied to make sure that the procedure is as comfortable as possible.
A wax softening agent, such as Debrox, can be used at home to keep ear wax soft and loose. These ear drops are over the counter and may be recommended prior to scheduled wax removal. For patients wearing hearing technology, keeping one’s ears free of wax also assists in keeping the hearing devices clean.