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Earwax : What it is and what to do about it

Most people don't understand the purpose of earwax and consider it to be something dirty that has to be cleaned out. Others feel that wax buildup causes infections. But, according to researchers, earwax has gotten a bad rap over the years.

Earwax is a friend, not a foe. Earwax is a natural product that your body makes to help keep foreign particles from getting to and damaging your fragile eardrum. It protects your ears from infection. It traps dust, sand, insects and other particles and keeps them from getting into the ears.

In most cases, earwax gets rid of itself by traveling outward, drying up and flaking away. Unfortunately, may people have earwax-producing cells in their ear canals that work overtime. You end up with too much wax.

Apparently, you can run into some problems when you attempt to clean your ears out yourself. The softer wax can get pushed back into the ear, block he canal and get trapped. The wax can become impacted and then you've got trouble.

Other reasons why wax can become impacted in your ears are an increase in the number of hairs in your ears as you age, producing an unusual amount of wax, or abnormally shaped ear canals. Lack of chewing your food properly can also keep the wax from migrating out.

Devices that fit into the ears such as hearing aids, stethoscopes or molded earpieces can also create problems leading to excessive earwax.

Too much wax in your ears can cause hearing problems, ringing in the ear and just simple problem with personal hygiene. Symptoms of wax buildup can range from slight annoyance to severe pain in the ear. It can sometimes cause hearing loss, dizziness and vertigo.

Australian researchers tested several commonly used products for ear wax removal and found that the best one just happens to be the cheapest -- sodium bicarbonate. Just mix one teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in two teaspoons of water. Shake well and apply a few drops in your ear with a dropper. Within one hour, the solution should break up the wax. Although oil, the most commonly used remedy, won't dissolve ear wax away, the researcher admit it might lubricate your ear canal enough so you can remove the ax easily- but it's much messier.

Most drug stores or pharmacies sell over-the-counter ear cleansing kits. The kits include some eardrops that will soften the hardened wax buildup. After the wax is softened, you can use the syringe from the kit to gently cleanse your ear with clean, warm water. The wax should flow right out of your ears into the sink or shower. If you still notice a ringing noise, try some more drops and repeat the cleansing process.

If your ears become red and irritated, put the kit away and try it again the following day. Your ears aren't used to so much attention and might need a rest from the cleaning.

Removing normal amounts of wax from your ears can cause problems.

Taking away the fluid and its normal function can sometimes lead to dry ears. Your ears can become itchy due to the dryness. It can also lead to conditions such as swimmer's ear, because earwax helps to waterproof your ears. When you remove the oily coating, it can leave your ears unprotected.

Your doctor can clean the wax out of you ears if you have difficulty doing it yourself. Your doctor will also clean out your children's ears -- special care should be taken with children because their ear canals are shorter than adults, and it is easy to damage the tender eardrum.

Never use your finger, a hairpin, a pencil, tweezers, sharp objects or even cotton swabs to clean your ears. Putting these things in your ear could push the wax deeper into your ear and even damage your eardrum.


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