Did you know that ear wax plays an important role in keeping your ears healthy and protected?
For such an important substance, ear wax has a bit of an unfair reputation. Ear wax plays a key defence mechanism for the health of your ears.
It helps to clean and lubricate the ear canals, while also preventing dust, dirt and other nasties from creeping in.
What is ear wax made of?
Ear wax, or cerumen, is formed in the outer third of the ear canal and is a mixture of secretions from oil and sweat glands, as well as dust, dirt, hair and dead skin cells. The ears are self-cleaning. The wax moves out of the ear canal by a mixture of jaw movement and the motion of the superficial skin layer. When it reaches the external ear it falls out naturally, and any remnants can be wiped away.
What does ear wax do?
Your ear wax protects your ears by catching anything foreign before they get to your sensitive ear drums. This is why the substance has a sticky and waxy texture. It is able to protect your inner ear and drum, helping to prevent infection by trapping micro-organisms, dirt, dust and any other irritants. Ear wax has both lubricating and antibacterial properties.
The different types of ear wax
The type of ear wax that you produce is determined by your genetic background. Wax can be either wet or dry.. Wet wax (honey coloured, sticky wax) is more common amongst Caucasians and Africans. Dry wax (white/grey and flaky) is more common in those of Asian descent. This same gene also impacts on sweat production – if you have wet wax you are more likely to have body odour!
Whether you have dry or wet ear wax, the colour can change for a variety of reasons. Soft and yellow ear wax is typical. Ear wax can be darker if it’s been in your ear for longer. If you have cloudy and runny ear wax, this may be a sign of an infection and is worth getting checked out by a medical professional.
When to Get Your Ear Wax Cleaned
If you have a normal amount of ear wax, your ears are cleaning themselves properly. Too much ear wax can be a problem, however.
If you have signs or symptoms of an ear that is blocked by excess or impacted ear wax then you should consider getting yours professionally cleaned.