Doctors Update Guidelines to Protect Hearing
The body produces earwax, or cerumen, to clean and protect the ears and hearing—earwax collects dirt and dust and prevents the debris from entering the ear further. Usually, everyday activities like talking and chewing help push old earwax out of the body, but if the self-cleaning process fails, earwax can buildup and block the ear canal.
Attempting to clean the ears—with cotton swabs or other methods—actually pushes the wax further into the ear and can cause damage. According to new guidelines published in the journal Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, removing earwax can irritate the ear canal, cause infection, and increase the risk for wax buildup—also called cerumen impaction.
The guidelines recommend seeking medical treatment for hearing loss and ear fullness, drainage, bleeding, or pain, and medical advice about how to remove earwax safely. They warn against putting anything—including cotton swabs—into the ears and against using "ear candles"—an alternative medicine method of removing impacted earwax that can cause serious damage.
Image Credit: Thinkstock