Caring for your ears is a very important part of personal hygiene. The ear consists of three parts; the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Personal hygiene of the ears only involves the care of the outer ear and the others parts do not require cleaning and can become damaged if tampered with. The outer ear consists of the visible part known as the pinna and the entrance to the ear canal leading to the ear drum.
Ear wax is present in everyone and its function is to provide a protective barrier between the fine structures of the middle and inner ear and the outside world.
The wax is produced by the tiny glands found in the layers of the skin. It will start to work its own way out to the external part of the ear by itself when ready. Fresh wax is then produced.
Wax Build Up
Occasionally a collection of wax can form in the ear; this may occur for number of reasons. Some people may have an anatomical narrowing of the ear canal that prevents the wax from escaping naturally, others may find the prolonged use of hearing-aids or ear plugs can interfere with the normal excretion of wax, sometimes it may be down to the individual who produces more wax than others.
A build up of wax can affect the ability to hear properly, can be uncomfortable, upset balance and may cause ringing in the ears known as tinnitus.
Treating Wax Build Up
It is extremely important to remember that experts do not recommend the use of any implement to try and remove the wax from inside the ear. Cleaning of the pinna with simple soap and water is acceptable, but no attempt should be made to go any deeper than this. The use of cotton buds and hair grips, once favoured by previous generations is a dangerous practice and can cause severe damage to the delicate structures of the ear, and can push wax further in leading to blockages and infections. If your ears are bleeding or weeping fluids, seek medical advice.
If you feel you have a build up of wax, purchase some softening ear drops from the pharmacy or use a few drops of warmed (not hot) olive oil to help loosen the wax. It will usually come out when softened.
If the wax does not expel with the use of drops, an appointment should be made with your GP or Practice Nurse who may want to syringe them. This involves the use of flushing the ear with warm water to help encourage the wax to dislodge. It should only be performed by a professional.
If the wax is very stubborn, suction or scraping instruments may need to be used, though this is not common.
The daily cleaning of all hearing devices is essential to remove germs that can be introduced into the ear; always clean as per manufacturer’s requirements.
Earrings should be kept clean, and should be removed daily so the piercing can be attended to. The use of hair products can build-up on the ear and should be washed off when possible to avoid irritation to the skin of the ear.
Ear care should be part of everyday hygiene, though an area that is often overlooked or mistreated. Always remember to only clean the external part of your ear, and never use an instrument or device to try and retrieve the wax from the inside.