Cerumen, also known as earwax, is a sticky and shiny substance that is produced by the wax glands of the outer ear. Cerumen is made from oil, sweat, and dead skin cells that accumulate over time in the ear canal.
Believe it or not, ear wax actually has a purpose besides just being sticky and gooey. It’s purpose is to clean, lubricate and protect the ear canal; once it serves its purpose, it dries up and makes its way out of the ear canal. Earwax coats the ear canal to moisturize it and it also fights off infections. If dirt or dust make their way into the ear canal, they are trapped by the ear wax and eventually pushed out slowly. Fun fact; earwax is antifungal in nature, and produces a scent that insects don’t like - good for us!
When it comes to cleaning our ears the best thing to do is nothing. The ear canal is a sensitive area, and earwax can fall out of the ear on its own. If we use probes - such as cotton swabs or hair pins - to remove earwax, we can potentially push the wax further into the ear canal and block off - or even puncture - the eardrum. Some people may naturally produce excess earwax due to their genetics or lifestyle. In this case, The LA Center for Hearing & Balance recommends that you see a licensed professional (ENT doctor or Audiologist) to have your ears checked and safely cleaned.
Ear candling is a cleaning practice that has been around for many years but has NOT been proven to clean ears. It is done by inserting a hollow candle into your ear and then it is lit to remove excess earwax. This form of ear cleaning can be dangerous and can lead to serious injuries of the ear canal or tympanic membrane (eardrum).