Ear wax is not dirt; It is an ear protection mechanism that makes it difficult for infections, foreign bodies, or insects to enter. It occurs in the outer third of the canal, where there are also hairs. Its consistency is very variable, from hard like a stone to very pasty; its color varies from black to light brown. Sometimes what obstructs the duct is not wax, but skin.
Do you have to clean it?
In most cases, the amount of wax that is produced does not require any attention at all; the ENT doctors tell our patients that the wax must be cleaned with the elbows (an elbow does not enter the ear); that is, only the one that is visible around the conduit entry hole should be removed.
What symptoms does it give?
Having wax in the ear canal does not give any symptoms; When the amount of wax is sufficient to completely obstruct the ear canal, it causes a sensation of plugging of the ear and hearing loss; occasionally, this stuffy feeling can cause instability or even dizziness, but this is very rare. The typical presentation is suddenly when getting out of the shower or swimming since the water swells the wax and causes it to plug the canal. In some cases, the build-up of wax can be itchy.
Can it be harmful?
Really, having wax in the canal is not harmful, but it can cause discomfort if there is a lot of it (plugging, itching, moisture) and it can make it difficult to examine the ear if an infection occurs (more common in children).
How to clean it?
There are many products on the market for cleaning the ear, such as drops, sprays, swabs, etc. However, in most cases, nothing has to be done and one visit a year is enough for cleaning (one visit a year is more practical than using products all that year). The drops are to soften the wax so that it is easier to extract; sprays are good for preventing plugs, but they have to be used daily, which is not practical. The swabs are to clean the ear, not to put them in the canal since they push and compact the wax and are dangerous, as they can produce tympanic perforations or wounds in the canal or detach the cotton and leave a foreign body. In the consultation, we extract them with pressurized water, an aspirator, or a curette (hook).