What is ear wax?

What is ear wax?

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A human, at some time in life or the other, must clear the auditory canal. This is usually achieved using soft-cotton buds, or such similar device.

Where does this wax come from? What purpose does it serve? Is it really wax? Is it the inner fluid leaking out?

As quoted from the wikipedia page on Earwax:

Cerumen [earwax] is produced in the outer third of the cartilaginous portion of the human ear canal. It is a mixture of viscous secretions from sebaceous glands and less-viscous ones from modified apocrine sweat glands. The primary components of earwax are shed layers of skin, with 60% of the earwax consisting of keratin, 12-20% saturated and unsaturated long-chain fatty acids, alcohols, squalene and 6-9% cholesterol.

It's purpose -- further quoted -- is that 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

Some interesting (and stomach churning) earwax trivia:

  • In medieval times earwax, and other substances such as urine, were used to prepare pigments used by scribes to illustrate illuminated manuscripts.
  • The 1832 edition of the American Frugal Housewife said that "nothing was better than earwax to prevent the painful effects resulting from a wound by a nail [or] skewer"; and also recommended earwax as a remedy for cracked lips.
  • Before waxed thread was commonly available seamstresses would use their own earwax to stop the cut ends of threads from fraying.

What is ear wax? - Biology

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The technological potential of earwax

While most of us consider earwax to simply be an unappealing substance, Alexis Noel, a doctoral student in David Hu's laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, sees its innovative potential as a high-tech filter for use in robotics and other fields.

Noel attributes her inspiration for studying earwax to an event during a diving vacation. Her boyfriend had gotten water trapped in his ear, and nothing seemed to be able to get it out. Eventually, he had to go to a doctor, who found that the water was actually being held in place by his earwax.

"A couple years later I was reminiscing and thought: why would it block the water like that? And it just started this snowball effect of me and David [Hu] just asking questions about earwax and how it works," says Noel. They realized that this strange bodily fluid could potentially be a template for developing adhesives for applied usage in technology. But first, its complex behavior must be understood.

She and undergraduate researcher Zac Zachow began investigating earwax by collecting samples from several animals: pigs, sheep, rabbits and dogs. What they have found is fascinating. First, the properties of earwax are extremely consistent across these different mammals, which have a variety of ear shapes and sizes. The thickness, the way it flows, and even the appearance is highly similar. This indicates that those properties of earwax seem to be a solution that works well across species.

They also examined the ear canal shapes of different animals and motions of the jaw to see how these factors affect the flow of the earwax and lead to it falling out of the ear. It turns out that earwax is a non-Newtonian, shear-thinning fluid, which means is that when left alone, it is very thick and sticky (earwax is as viscous as molasses), but when a force is applied to it, it flows more quickly. As a result, although earwax is used within the ear for a long time, pressure and motion of the jaw will eventually force it out.

In the ear, earwax is excellent at filtering air. In the same way that Noel's boyfriend's earwax trapped the water, earwax traps other particles, catching them in a "web" of small hairs coated with sticky wax and protecting the inner ear from debris and bacteria. Noel and Zachrow have also found that as earwax accumulates dust, it becomes crumbly "like adding too much flour to dough when making bread," Noel explained. This allows the dusty wax to separate and fall out of the ear, making room for newer, cleaner wax to continue its work within the ear.

It is these filtering properties that have piqued Noel's interest for practical applications. One potential is to create some sort of biomimetic earwax adhesive surface that can be used in a ventilation system for robotics or for other kinds of machinery.

"Obviously you're not going to have earwax sitting on a Mars rover to protect it from dust," laughs Noel. "We are still trying to understand what is earwax and how does it work the way it works. And once we really understand that we can start applying it [to new technology]."

The Dangers of Excessive Earwax

Of all the indignities that come with aging, excessive earwax may be the most insidious.

That greasy, often gross, buildup occurs more often in older ears than those of the young, experts say. And when it goes unrecognized, it can pose serious problems, especially for the 2.2 million people who live in U.S. nursing homes and assisted living centers.

&ldquoThe excessive amount [of earwax] can cause hearing loss or ringing in your ears. Some people experience vertigo, which increases the risk of falling,&rdquo said Jackie Clark, a board-certified audiologist who is president of the American Academy of Audiology. &ldquoRight now, we see some correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline.&rdquo

Earwax&mdashwhich is not really wax at all, but a substance called cerumen that binds with dirt, dust and debris&mdashis normally produced by the body as a way to clean and protect the ears. In most people, the self-cleaning process works fine.

But in others&mdashincluding about 10 percent of young children, 20 percent of adults and more than 30 percent of elderly and developmentally disabled people&mdashthe wax collects to the point where it can completely block the ear canal.

Up to two-thirds of people in nursing homes may suffer from that condition, known as impaction, according to 2017 guidelines for removal of impacted earwax issued by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

In 2016, federal Medicare recipients logged nearly 1.7 million earwax removal services at a cost of more than $51 million, according to payment records analyzed by Kaiser Health News.

&ldquoIn elderly patients, it&rsquos fairly common,&rdquo said Dr. Seth Schwartz, a Seattle otolaryngologist who led the most recent update of the guidelines. &ldquoIt seems like such a basic thing, but it&rsquos one of the most common reasons people present for hearing-related problems.&rdquo

It&rsquos so bad that Janie York, of Omaha, Neb., started Hear Now mobile hearing solutions, one of a growing number of businesses devoted to cleaning hearing aids and checking the ears of elderly people living in residential care settings.

&ldquoIt&rsquos epidemic,&rdquo said York, whose clients now include 10 local centers. &ldquoAbout 3 in 5 people I see have some degree of impaction and most are completely impacted.&rdquo

Julie Brown, assistant director of nursing in the memory support unit at SilverRidge Assisted Living in Gretna, Neb., said impacted earwax can be a particular problem for patients with dementia. It exacerbates hearing loss, which can impede communication and worsen aggression and other difficult behaviors.

&ldquoAs soon as the earwax is cleared up, even their behavior has calmed down,&rdquo Brown said.

Excessive earwax sends about 12 million people to see health workers every year, including about eight million who require wax removal, according to the otolaryngology association.

That&rsquos not counting the people who try DIY treatments to get rid of earwax, nearly all of which are frowned on by the professionals.

&ldquoPeople put everything in their ears: Q-tips, bobby pins, pencils, fingernails,&rdquo Schwartz said.

Usually, the best way to control earwax is to leave it alone, Schwartz said. But that advice can backfire when families or caregivers neglect to check the ears of elderly people in residential care.

Hearing-aid users should have regular ear checks every three to six months, the guidelines suggest. People with dementia should also have earwax removed regularly.

It can take a professional with an otoscope&mdasha device that can look deep inside the ear&mdashto tell if cerumen is blocking the ear canal. Usually, earwax can be safely removed by softening it with water, saline or commercial ear drops and then through gentle syringing or manual extraction with a device called a curette.

The effects in the elderly can be immediate. A small 2014 study by Japanese researchers found significant improvements in hearing and cognitive performance in elderly patients with memory disorders when impacted cerumen was removed.

Too often, though, earwax in the elderly goes unnoticed.

&ldquoI&rsquom seeing 15 people here, but what about the other hundred?&rdquo York said. &ldquoNobody&rsquos looking. I don&rsquot know why it&rsquos been neglected for so long.&rdquo

This story was originally published by Kaiser Health News on August 29, 2018. Read the original story here.

The 3 Ways To Get Rid Of Ear Wax Are:

1. Ear Wax Remedies

The Cerumin remedy is best known for softening the ear wax, making it easier to remove. This medicine can be purchased at any pharmacy without a prescription, but it should only be used under medical indication because it should not be used in case of ear infection.Other ways to take earwax are by using saline, baby oil or other mineral or vegetable oil. Simply drip up to 5 drops of oil into the clogged ear and cover with cotton so they can soften the wax naturally.

2. Wash the ear with serum

A great way to get wax from the ear, very effectively, is:

  1. Apply 5 drops of saline solution at room temperature with a dropper
  2. Hold the top of the ear by pulling it up
  3. Throw a small stream of serum into the ear with a syringe (no needlestick and a soft tip) or a nasal cleanser for children
  4. Turning the head sideways and letting the dirty water out, if the wax is coming out you can try to pick it up with tweezers, but be very careful not to push the wax in and not to hurt the ear canal
  5. Dry the ear with a soft towel or with a hair dryer.

If it is not possible to remove the ear wax after 3 attempts, it is recommended to go to the otolaryngologist for professional cleaning because this doctor has the necessary equipment to visualize the inside of the ear canal and to remove the wax safely and efficiently.

3. How to remove the wax with Chinese cone

Traditional Chinese medicine therapists are the best people to use the cone to remove wax from the ear. This ancient technique is used in China, but should not be attempted at home because of the risk of the person being able to burn.

Why Do We Have Ear Wax?

Everyone has ear wax - but how much is too much, and should you really be trying to clean it out?

The ear wax that is naturally produced by your body helps to clean, protect, and lubricate your ears. But ear wax sometimes builds up excessively, and if it does, you may want to turn to methods of ear wax removal.

Ear wax, also called cerumen, is a sticky, shiny substance produced by the wax glands located in the outer part of your ear canal (the canal that separates the fleshy outer ear from the inner ear). Ear wax is 20 to 50 percent fat, and it coats the ear canal to moisturize it, fight off infection, and help keep dust, dirt, and other debris from getting deep inside your ear. Most people make enough ear wax, but if you have too little ear wax, your ears can become dry, itchy, and prone to infection.

Once ear wax has served its purpose, it eventually migrates from your ear canal to the opening of your ear, where it normally dries up and falls out of your ear. Although the reason is unknown, some people produce more ear wax than others. In some cases, excessive ear wax can accumulate in the ear canal and cause symptoms including:

The Safest Ways to Remove Excess Ear Wax

Many people practice ear wax removal as part of their personal hygiene routine. Some people probe their ear canals with cotton swabs, hair pins, or other objects in an attempt to clean excess ear wax. But if done incorrectly, at-home ear cleaning can actually push wax deeper into your ear canal, block your ear drum, cause irritation of the ear canal, or cause your eardrum to rupture.

To safely clean your ears at home, use a cloth to wipe and wash the fleshy external part of your ear, but avoid putting anything into your ear canal. In some cases, putting a few drops of mineral or baby oil, glycerin, hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, or over-the-counter ear cleaning drops into your ear can help to soften and remove excessive ear wax. It's best to avoid using cotton swabs or other probing objects for at-home ear cleaning.

If you feel you have excessive amounts of ear wax and it's affecting your hearing, talk with your doctor. She can examine your ear canal with a lighted instrument called an otoscope and remove problematic ear wax using ear drops, water irrigation, a suctioning device, or other instruments. Some people need to see their doctor every 6 to 12 months for an ear examination and ear cleaning to remove ear wax build-up.

What About Ear Candling?

Ear candling is an ear cleaning practice that involves inserting long, hollow, lighted candles into your ear to remove excessive ear wax. But ear candling is not safe, because it can lead to injury, burns, or obstruction of your ear canal. In fact, because the safety issues associated with them are so serious, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put regulations into place for the manufacturing and marketing of ear candles.

Find more information in the Everyday Health Ear, Nose, and Throat Center.

How to clean your ears

While your ears are self-cleaning, there are a few things you can do to keep them clean and free of excess debris:

  • Wash your ears using a warm, soapy wash cloth. Letting warm water from your daily shower run into your ears every so often is probably enough to soften and loosen excess earwax.
  • If your ears are healthy and you don&rsquot have any tubes or eardrum perforations, you can try to clear excess earwax yourself using an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit. Ask your local pharmacist for a recommendation.
  • If you wear hearing aids, make sure you clean them properly.
  • If you're older than 60, have your hearing evaluated periodically by a hearing healthcare professional. Ask your family physician for a referral, or search our online directory to find hearing clinics near you. Besides advising you on your hearing health, they will be able to detect excess cerumen and may safely remove it.
  • See a doctor immediately if your home treatments don't help or if you experience sudden hearing loss, pain or bleeding.

Debbie Clason , staff writer , Healthy Hearing

Debbie Clason holds a master's degree from Indiana University. Her impressive client list includes financial institutions, real estate developers, physicians, pharmacists and nonprofit organizations. Read more about Debbie.

What is the function of Earwax in the Human Body?

The earwax is very useful substance which keeps our ears healthy and is produced naturally in the ear. This wax is found not only in humans, but also in animals. It cleans, protects and lubricates the ears. Let us study through this article about earwax, its function etc.
Important facts about Earwax
1. The scientific name of the earwax is cerumen. It is formed in the outer part of our ear canal where there are thousands of glands. It is sticky and shiny substance. It coats the ear to moisturize it and fight against infection.
2. Earwax also prevents from dust, dirt, and insects from entering the ear.
3. It also works like a natural antibiotic, i.e. it contains anti-microbial properties. According to some researchers, cerumen contains a lysozyme antibacterial enzyme which is capable of destroying the walls of the cells of bacteria.
4. With the help of earwax, you can tell which family you belong to. People have wet or dry wax. Although, both the wax is made up of chemicals. But it depends upon the family that the wax will be wet or dry in your ear. This is detected by the gene. This gene is called ABCC11. If the gene G is replaced by gene A, then, the wax in the ear will be dry and its odour will also be different.

Source: www.

Which technique helps to grow artificial ear in the Human Body?
5. The story of migration of human also tells the wet or dry wax found in the ears. The kind of wax you have depends on genetics. Generally, people having dry earwax are from North-East Asian descent, especially from China or Korea while people having wet are African or Caucasian breed.
6. Earwax can be a pollution monitor. Like many other body secretions, wax can also show signs of some toxic substances in the body such as heavy metals.
7. Stress or fear can increase the production of earwax. The glands that secrete wax in the ear are the class of glands called the apocrine glands, which are also responsible for your sweat odour. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, during stress more sweat released from the body and so, the secretion of earwax also increases.
8. The wax in the ear can also tell about the smell or odour of the sweat. Some people produce wet earwax, while others dry. If the wax in the ear is white, flaky, then it means that certain chemicals in your sweat are lacking that leads to the body odour.
9. With the help of earwax, the ears gets clean itself. During the chewing, a kind of pressure is exerted on the ear canal through the movement of the jaw, which pushes out extra wax accumulated in the ear. In fact, trying to clean earwax can do more harm than good.
10. If the earwax stays in the ear, then listening can be affected or deafness can occur. This often happens when the ear produces more wax or the wax does not come out and goes back to the pinna of the ear. Symptoms that may occur are pain in ear, headache, dizziness, excessive itching, smell or yellowish water comes out of the ear.
From the above article we have studied that the earwax is essential for our body, due to which the ear remains oily, early infections do not occur because it prevents from dust, dirt, soil, insects from entering the ear etc.

What is earwax?

Earwax is really a liquid called cerumen that is produced by glands in the skin of the ear canal. This sticky liquid helps protect the inner ear from bacteria, bugs, dirt and dust particles. Part of the magic of the ear is that it’s self-cleaning—as you chew or talk, the earwax moves from the ear canal to the ear opening. Then it usually dries into flakes and falls out.

Why does earwax build up?

Sometimes the natural cleaning process can be affected by things that we do. And some people are just more prone to earwax buildup and blockage. For example:

  • If a person has a narrow or oddly shaped ear canal, earwax may not move as easily through the canal and out of the ear, and cause a blockage.
  • If you use a cotton swab to clean your ears, you may be pushing wax further into the canal without realizing it.
  • If you use in-ear headphones frequently, this could be causing earwax to be pushed back and build up.
  • Certain health conditions, such as eczema, can also cause wax to build up.

Hearing aid users and elderly adults may be more at risk of earwax buildup and blockage. Hearing aids present a double whammy—they can block the earwax from drying and flaking off and, because they are in the ear for a prolonged time, they can trigger the cerumen glands to produce more wax. Elderly adults can be at risk simply because of biology—earwax becomes harder and less mobile as we age.

What you can do to prevent or treat earwax buildup

Removing earwax buildup is important to avoid impaction (blockage). Impacted earwax can cause hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ears, itchy ears and even infection. It can be especially disorienting for people with dementia or other health conditions that affect the senses or mobility. If earwax is blocking your ears and causing these symptoms, you may need to go to your doctor to get your ears examined and resolve the blockage safely.

If you have excessive earwax that has built up but is not fully impacted, you can use doctor-recommended Debrox earwax removal drops to help soften and loosen the earwax so it can drain out of the ear canal.

Prevention is your best bet to save time and protect your ear and hearing health. Follow the tips that apply to you:

  • Never stick a swab close to or into your ear canal.
  • Gently wipe your ears with a damp cloth when needed. Do not over-clean.
  • Take frequent and long breaks from using in-ear headphones clean the headphones and wipe your ears after each use.
  • Use over-ear headphones (or no headphones) instead of in-ear headphones.
  • Clean and use your hearing aid as directed to help prevent earwax from building up and to keep earwax from damaging your device.

Anytime you have ear pain or loss of hearing, call your doctor for advice. For normal earwax buildup, keep at least one Debrox® Earwax Removal Kit along with your self-care supplies. Be sure to check for a coupon on our site before you buy.

Mammalian ear

The shape of outer ear of mammals varies widely across species. However the inner workings of mammalian ears (including humans') are very similar.

Parts of the Ear

Outer ear (pinna, ear canal, surface of ear drum)

The outer ear is the most external portion of the ear. The outer ear includes the pinna (also called auricle), the ear canal, and the very most superficial layer of the ear drum (also called the tympanic membrane). In humans, and almost all vertebrates, the only visible portion of the ear is the outer ear. Although the word "ear" may properly refer to the pinna (the flesh covered cartilage appendage on either side of the head), this portion of the ear is not vital for hearing. The complicated design of the human outer ear does help capture sound (and imposes filtering that helps distinguish the direction of the sound source), but the most important functional aspect of the human outer ear is the ear canal itself. Unless the canal is open, hearing will be dampened. Ear wax (medical name - cerumen) is produced by glands in the skin of the outer portion of the ear canal. This outer ear canal skin is applied to cartilage the thinner skin of the deep canal lies on the bone of the skull. Only the thicker cerumen-producing ear canal skin has hairs. The outer ear ends at the most superficial layer of the tympanic membrane. The tympanic membrane is commonly called the ear drum.

The pinna helps direct sound through the ear canal to the tympanic membrane (eardrum). The framework of the auricle consists of a single piece of yellow fibrocartilage with a complicated relief on the anterior, concave side and a fairly smooth configuration on the posterior, convex side. The Darwinian tubercle, which is present in some people, lies in the descending part of the helix and corresponds to the true ear tip of the long-eared mammals. The lobule merely contains subcutaneous tissue. [2] In some animals with mobile pinnae (like the horse), each pinna can be aimed independently to better receive the sound. For these animals, the pinnae help localize the direction of the sound source. Human beings localize sound within the central nervous system, by comparing arrival-time differences and loudness from each ear, in brain circuits that are connected to both ears.

Human outer ear and culture

Although the function of the human auricle is rudimentary in terms of hearing, the ears do have an effect on facial appearance. In Western societies, protruding ears (present in about 5% of the Europeans & descendants) have been considered unattractive, particularly if asymmetric. The first surgery to reduce the projection of prominent ears was published in the medical literature in 1881.

The ears have also been ornamented with jewelery for thousands of years, traditionally by piercing of the earlobe. In some cultures, ornaments are placed to stretch and enlarge the earlobes to make them very large. Tearing of the earlobe from the weight of heavy earrings, or from traumatic pull of an earring (for example by snagging on a sweater being removed), is fairly common. [3] The repair of such a tear is usually not difficult.

A cosmetic surgical procedure to reduce the size or change the shape of the ear is called an otoplasty. In the rare cases when no pinna is formed (atresia), or is extremely small (microtia) reconstruction the auricle is possible. Most often, a cartilage graft from another part of the body (generally, rib cartilage) is used to form the matrix of the ear, and skin grafts or rotation flaps are used to provide the covering skin. However, when babies are born without an auricle on one or both sides, or when the auricle is very tiny, the ear canal is ordinarily either small or absent, and the middle ear often has deformities. The initial medical intervention is aimed at assessing the baby's hearing and the condition of the ear canal, as well as the middle and inner ear. Depending on the results of tests, reconstruction of the outer ear is done in stages, with planning for any possible repairs of the rest of the ear. [4] [5] [6]

Middle ear

The middle ear, an air-filled cavity behind the ear drum (tympanic membrane), includes the three ear bones or ossicles: the malleus (or hammer), incus (or anvil), and stapes (or stirrup). The opening of the Eustachian tube is also within the middle ear. The malleus has a long process (the manubrium, or handle) that is attached to the mobile portion of the eardrum. The incus is the bridge between the malleus and stapes. The stapes is the smallest named bone in the human body. The three bones are arranged so that movement of the tympanic membrane causes movement of the malleus, which causes movement of the incus, which causes movement of the stapes. When the stapes footplate pushes on the oval window, it causes movement of fluid within the cochlea (a portion of the inner ear).

In humans and other land animals, the middle ear (like the ear canal) is normally filled with air. Unlike the open ear canal, however, the air of the middle ear is not in direct contact with the atmosphere outside the body. The Eustachian tube connects from the chamber of the middle ear to the back of the pharynx. The middle ear is very much like a specialized paranasal sinus, called the tympanic cavity it, like the paranasal sinuses, is a hollow mucosa-lined cavity in the skull that is ventilated through the nose. The mastoid portion of the human temporal bone, which can be felt as a bump in the skull behind the pinna, also contains air, which is ventilated through the middle ear.