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Earwax, also known by the medical term cerumen, is a yellowish waxy substance secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals. It protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water.
Pathophysiology: Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Although scientists are still not completely sure why we have earwax, it does trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from reaching, and potentially damaging or infecting the eardrum. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear, along with any trapped dust or debris. Everyone makes ear wax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair color or height. Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the naturally occurring wax to get out of the canal and lead to wax impactions.
Treatment: Softeners: This process is referred to as cerumenolysis. A review of studies found that topical preparations for the removal of earwax may be better than no treatment, and there may not be much difference between types, including water and olive oil.However, there were not enough studies to draw firm conclusions, and the evidence on irrigation and manual removal is equivocal. Ear irrigation: Once the cerumen has been softened, it may be removed from the ear canal by irrigation, but the evidence on this practice is equivocal. This may be effectively accomplished with a spray type ear washer, commonly used in the medical setting or at home, or with a bulb syringe at home.Ear syringing techniques are described in great detail by Wilson & Roeser,and Blake et al.,who advise pulling the external ear up and back, and aiming the nozzle of the syringe slightly upwards and backwards so that the water flows as a cascade along the roof of the canal. Curette and cotton swabs: Earwax can be removed with an ear pick/curette, which physically dislodges the earwax and scoops it out of the ear canal. Ear candles and vacuuming: Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health and well-being by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal.