You hear it all the time now, like your parents warning you not to run with scissors: don’t clean your ears with cotton swabs. If you’re like most people, however, the idea of getting your ears professionally cleaned sounds absurd. Why would you pay someone to get rid of a little earwax? The answer to that question has everything to do with the ear canal.
Respect for the Ear Canal
This tunnel is the on-ramp to a multilane highway of a number of different organs in our head. The first stop is the tympanic membrane, most famously known as the eardrum. After this gateway, we travel through the middle ear space and then branch off between the inner ear area and the eustachian tube. The inner ear contains the semicircular canals and the cochlea, which do the majority of the work of transmitting sound to our brain and help us maintain balance. The eustachian tube leads to the pharynx, the area of the throat just behind the nose, and fluid from the middle ear drains from here. (When we “pop” our ears while flying, the eustachian tube is largely responsible.)
Being the entry point of not only sound but also so many important regulatory organs makes the ear canal one of the most important parts of your body. So it needs protection.
A Little Earwax is Good for the Ear Canal
The first thing you need to understand is that earwax is not some foreign substance. The ear canal, like many units in the body, is self-cleaning. The skin on the inside of this tunnel secrets a substance called cerumen – earwax – which lubricates and protects. It’s much like the relationship between mucus and your sinuses. It traps dirt and prevents things like pollen and insects from entering the ear. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties thanks to high acidity. That’s why it tastes so bad; imagine the bitter aftertaste of lemons, vinegar, and tomatoes without the sweetness to balance them, and you have earwax.
Why Clean My Ears at All?
For the most part, earwax removes itself in due time. In fact, cleaning it out can do more damage than good, especially if you are using a cotton swab. There are no two ways about it: you could very easily leave tears in the ear canal or puncture your eardrum. Even if one of these outcomes is not the case, you may wind up impacting the wax, a counterintuitive result to your efforts and therefore decide to not bother cleaning your ears at all.
Sometimes earwax impacts the ear canal even if you don’t use a cotton swab. Debris can still enter, or an infection may occur. If you are starting to feel itching, dryness, diminishment in hearing, or discomfort of any kind, you may need to get your ears cleaned. It is best, therefore, to have a professional cleaning done. The audiologist can then see if there is a greater problem and recommend a treatment plan. Additionally, cleaning your ears is a great part of health maintenance.
You may be wondering: what about home remedies? There are some you can try, such as using a washcloth or tissue to wipe the area outside of the ear canal, or earwax removal drops you can find over-the-counter. Caution is recommended when it comes to others, such as ear candling. It is always best to consult your audiologist when considering a method of ear maintenance and care. They know the most current and reliable methods and can recommend a treatment plan just right for you.
At RK Audiology, we conduct safe, comfortable cleanings that will keep your ear canals healthy and happy. Our audiologists utilize Video Otoscopy – state-of-the-art equipment allowing both you and the audiologist to view the inside of your ear canals with a small camera which transmits to a larger screen. Video Otoscopy is used with every client before and during all ear cleanings. Schedule a cleaning today!