Wax (cerumen) is a normal product of a healthy ear canal. In most cases there is no need to do anything about it, but if you do, please do the right thing!
Cerumen is made up of skin cells, hair and oil from the ear canal. Interestingly there are two types of ear wax, dry and wet. The types are genetically determined, with the wet type being dominantly inherited and more commonly found in Africans and Europeans. Wet cerumen is also linked to increased sweat, and armpit odour. Dry wax is a recessively inherited gene and is more likely to occur in Asians and Pacific Islanders, and is associated with less body odour
The cerumen in your ear canal, in most cases, will migrate out all by itself as the skin of the ear canal moves out towards your pinna (outer ear). Jaw movements assist this process.
There are times when cerumen becomes a problem. If it blocks your ear canal completely it can cause hearing loss. If it is itchy it can be annoying. And, if it forms a reflective surface, it can cause hearing aids to whistle.
Firstly, do not use cotton buds! The chances of effectively removing wax in this manner is low. You are more likely to push the cerumen deeper into your ear canal. You may also end up with the wax becoming impacted.
In the past, GP practices would remove wax using syringing. As the practitioner performing this process cannot visualise what they are doing, it is not an ideal way of removing cerumen.
You may have heard of ear candling? There are many risks to this procedure, and no proven benefits. The FDA (the United States Food and Drug Administration) have been warning people of the dangers of this practice for almost 10 years.
So, what can you do? See an appropriately qualified and trained specialist who will remove your cerumen using microsuction, under the illumination and magnification of a microscope. An Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon, Specialist Ear Nurse, or Audiologist can all perform this task. This process is very gentle, and safe. Actually, it’s pretty enjoyable!