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Earwax: A Pretty Gross Subject

This is part of what I do all day long; I clean ears. It’s within an audiologist’s scope of practice. I usually get a chuckle when I tell my patients that cleaning ears is a much better job than selling shoes—even from shoe sales associates.

People with loads of wax in their ears often ask, “Am I normal? Does everyone have this problem?” Yes, more than likely you are normal and no, not everyone gets an accumulation of earwax. Your ear canals produce wax and oil to protect your ears from foreign objects and to keep the tissue from drying out. Wax or cerumen can be a variety of textures and colors. Wax can accumulate over many years and some ears produce enough wax over a week or month to be an annoyance.

Obviously, the biggest impact is to your hearing. Making sure that ears are clear is the responsibility of all health care providers. Wax removal takes time. If it is hard, it needs be softened. It can be extracted by hand, suction, or flushing with warm water.

Using cotton swabs is a no-no. It may feel great to see that the end of the cotton has lots of residue. What you don’t see is the wax that you’ve pushed deeper into the canal. We always worry that you will go too deep and damage your eardrum—it happens. The next time you see your audiologist or physician, ask them to examine your ears. Make sure your provider addresses any buildup of wax. It will open up a whole new world.