Your ears contain delicate and complex organs like tiny bones, hairs, and membranes as well as hundreds of very sensitive nerve endings. Our bodies have devised a mechanism to protect our ears from the many potential hazards they face; that mechanism is earwax.
Ear wax is the common name for the substance called cerumen, a waxy and oily wax produced by your ears. Cerumen is there to trap dust, debris, particles, and microorganisms. It prevents them from infecting or irritating the organs, tissues, and skin of your ear canal. It helps to coat the ear canal with a water resistant lining that helps prevent water from causing infections.
What is Earwax?
Many people think of earwax as a kind of mucus, and while it does serve some of the same purposes of mucus, it is actually congealed sweat, skin, oil, dead skin, and debris from the air that forms up inside the canal. The sweat that becomes the base for the wax is produced by the apocrine gland in the ear.
What is the purpose of Earwax
In the same way, mucus protects our lungs, mouth, and nasal cavity from dirt, viruses, bacteria, parasites and other foreign invaders- earwax protects the delicate organs of our inner ear from all of these same potential threats. It also has just the right consistency to help prevent water from pouring directly into the ear.
Why does wax build up in the Ear?
Ear wax does have a tendency to build up in the ear canal. If the skin of the ear is irritated, if the weather is very dry, or if there is a lot of dust, particles, moisture, or other potential unwanted guests around, earwax can build up significantly- sometimes so much that it can cause harm. When this is the case, the wax can become quite a serious nuisance.
What are the Symptoms of Excessive Earwax Buildup?
Ringing in the ears can be caused by a wide range of conditions and is not well understood. The irritation that can be caused by excessive ear wax can cause a ringing sensation in the ear which is the typical symptom of tinnitus.
The primary purpose of earwax is to prevent harmful organisms from reaching the vulnerable tissues of the inner ear. Earwax invariably contains bacteria or mold. Too much earwax buildup can raise the risk of an infection taking hold and causing pain in the ear.
When an infectious invader such as mold, bacteria, or fungus has taken hold within the earwax, it will cause the apocrine gland to produce more earwax which can be brown or dark yellow in color.
Whether caused by infection or blockage, hearing loss is possibly the worst effect of excessive earwax buildup.
Fullness in the ear
If the earwax does not drain properly it can become impacted within the ear. When this happens, it can create the uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the ear.
How to Deal With Earwax
Cleaning the earwax from that is visible on the outside of the ear canal with a cotton swab is generally safe. If you experience any of the symptoms described above, you may have excessive earwax deep inside your ear canal. Trying to remove it, in that case, can push the wax deeper into the canal, or cause damage to your ears. Consult your physician or an Otolaryngologist if you suspect you may have an excessive buildup of earwax.