Earwax, also known by the medical term cerumen. It 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. Earwax consists of shed skin cells, hair, and the secretions of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands of the outside ear canal. Major components of earwax are long chain fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated, alcohols, squalene and cholesterol. Excess or compacted cerumen can press against the eardrum or block the outside ear canal or hearing aids, potentially causing hearing loss.
Excessive earwax may impede the passage of sound in the ear canal, causing conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids may be associated with increased earwax impaction. It is also estimated to be the cause of 60–80% of hearing aid faults. Ear pain is the predominant complaint and the only symptom directly related to the severity of acute external otitis. Unlike other forms of ear infections, the pain of acute external otitis is worsened when the outer ear is touched or pulled gently. Pushing the tragus, the tablike portion of the auricle that projects out just in front of the ear canal opening, also typically causes pain in this condition as to be diagnostic of external otitis on physical examination.
The prevalence of chronic otitis media was 0.94%. Impacted wax was found in 12.3% of the students. The prevalence of abnormalities (excluding wax) in the otoscopy examination was 10.5%. It was found that 8.3% of students had a past history of otitis and 7.7% had a past history of otorrhea. These two special groups presented statistically significant associations with chronic otitis media, hearing loss and otolaryngological surgeries (when compared with the other school children). Parents and school children seemed significantly able to identify a special group of children with past history of otitis during childhood.