Earwax: Why It’s Healthy

Earwax: Why It’s Healthy

Cerumen serves several important functions for the human body.

Have you ever heard of the term ‘cerumen’? It can be described as the waxy and oily substance that your body produces on a daily basis. The amount of cerumen generated varies from person to person; however, it is important for everyone to have it! Cerumen serves several important functions for the human body but often receives a bad rap for its nauseating appearance.This substance protects your ears from microorganisms, dust particles, and foreign materials. It is essentially your body’s line of defense against harmful materials entering your ear canals. People frequently rely on cotton swabs to clean their ears of it. There are many instances in children’s cartoons where fictional characters use it to make candles. At this point, you have probably realized that cerumen is the technical term for earwax. Most people know very little about this fascinating substance, so let’s shed some light on it! Here is everything you should know about earwax and why it is healthy for your body!

Where Does Earwax Come From?

Most people consider earwax to be a sticky and disgusting substance. It is produced in the outer ear canal and is continuously created by your body. The skin in the outer ear canal contains special glands that are responsible for producing ear wax. Once created, it will then make its way through the entirety of the ear canal. Most of the time, it either gets washed away or just falls out.

Why Is Earwax Important?

Believe it or not, earwax is essential for the body because it serves several purposes. Most people do not realize that earwax is in fact healthy! To begin with, it serves as a shield for your eardrum. It does an excellent job of stopping and trapping dust or dirt particles from getting too far into your ear canal. It also acts as a moisturizer for the ear canal because it possesses lubricating properties. This prevents a person’s ears from becoming too dry. Without earwax, people would have to find ways to cope with constantly itchy ears. Also, earwax contains chemicals that prevent ear infections. If you have ever had an ear infection before, you know how incredibly painful they can be. Lastly, earwax supplies your ears with waterproofing capabilities. It does a tremendous job of repelling water when you bathe or go for a swim.

The Appearance and Composition Of Earwax

Earwax varies in texture and color. It can be soft and sticky, dry and crumbly, or very hard if its been in your ear for a long time. The color of earwax depends on its chemical composition. It is comprised of mostly long-chain fatty acids, squalene, cholesterol, and alcohol. Earwax varies from person to person. The mixture of these substances can differ based on a person’s age, diet, and ethnicity. It also depends greatly on the environment. Healthy earwax can vary in color from light tan to dark brown.

The Ear Canal Is Perfect Breeding Ground For Bacteria

Bacteria is the leading cause of ear infections. The human ear canal is a dark, humid and warm environment. This is the sort of environment where various forms of bacteria love to grow!  Earwax has properties that can help keep bacterial infections from taking hold.

Cleaning Your Ears

The only real drawback of cerumen is that if your body produces too much, it may become hard and clog up your ear. There are plenty of mixed opinions about cleaning your ears. Some people firmly believe that you should not even worry about cleaning your ears. The people with this stance are usually the ones who assert that washing your hair regularly is enough to clean your ears. There are also plenty of people who use all sorts of random objects that have no business being inside a person’s ear. This includes using tweezers, hairpins, pens/pencils, straws, paper clips. It is also important to remember that fingers should never be placed inside your ears. The consensus is that using cotton swabs is not the best way to clean your ears either. The reason for this being people frequently misuse them and end up overcleaning the ear.  Also, people who use swabs to clean their ears will often make the mistake of jamming them too far back into their ear canals. This is extremely dangerous because the pressure of the swab can cause the eardrum to rupture. If you are going to use a cotton swab, you want to be sure to not go too deep in your ears!

Don’t Use Ear Candles!

Burning a candle in your ear canal is never a good idea! However, many people are under the misconception that this is a safe and effective way to rid your ears of earwax. This can quickly lead to burns and result in blocking the ear canal. Other earwax remedies are safer and more effective.

Causes Of Ear Wax Buildup

The Environment

Air quality can have a significant impact on an individuals ear wax levels. This is because particles in the air including debris, pollen, and microorganisms, will cause a person ears to create more wax.

Your Lifestyle

Did you know that putting small items in your ears can lead to a buildup of earwax? Inserting small items into a person’s ears like headphones, hearing aids, and q-tips are common examples of this. Doing this can result in pushing earwax further down the ear canal. Many people like to listen to loud music or use their headphones on a regular basis. Headphones can prevent the wax from coming out of your ears the right way.


Due to genetics, some people produce more earwax than others. If you have a family history of earwax, there is a good chance you have inherited those genes. Excessive levels of earwax is an annoyance; however, it is tolerable with the right treatment and care.

Incorrect Cleaning Methods

It is extremely dangerous to try and clean your ears with items like pens, bobby pins, and keys because you can easily scratch the skin with those things. Breaking the skin in your ear canal can make your ears more susceptible to infection.  Also, by using one of these items, you could end up pushing ear wax down further into your ear canals and stop your body’s natural cleaning mechanism.  

The Symptoms Of Earwax Buildup

There are a few indicators of earwax buildup. If you experience any of the following, you may need to consult a professional. They will be able to tell you if you are experiencing a buildup of earwax, an infection, or a blockage.

Hearing Loss

If you have an earwax buildup, it is possible that you will suffer from sudden partial hearing loss. The good news is that it is only temporary and can be treated. You should be able to resolve the problem by removing the ear wax.

Ears Feel “Full”

If you ever feel like your ears are full, or you have something jammed into your ear canal, you could be experiencing a wax buildup. This feeling should go away once the blockage has been removed.


A common indicator of earwax buildup is a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears. This condition is referred to as tinnitus and affects millions of people. Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors including age, overexposure to loud sounds, ear bone changes, and of course, earwax blockages.


Lastly, earwax buildup can cause a person to experience earaches. If you are somebody who suffers frequent earaches, that may be the cause of your problem. It is possible you have a buildup of wax that that has dried and hardened.

See A Professional if You Have Concerns About Wax

Any licensed healthcare professional who uses an otoscope to inspect the ears can easily tell if you have a problem with too much earwax.  Your family physician or any medically trained professional can remove earwax.  Depending on the scope of practice laws of the state you live in, hearing aid specialists and audiologists may also be able to remove earwax.  Ear, Nose and Throat physicians (otolaryngologists) are the best trained and most qualified professionals to deal with difficult earwax situations and any other medical condition of your ear.  It may be that a doctor will recommend periodic self-treatment for cerumen buildup.  There are many over-the-counter solutions you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about.

Earwax Treatment At Home

It is never a good idea to self-diagnose your earwax condition. It is possible that the discomfort felt in one of your ears is caused by something other than just an overabundance of earwax. However, if you are one of the many who suffers from an earwax problem, there is a good chance that your doctor is going to recommend an earwax removal method at home. An example of such would be a bulb-type syringe that can be used to flush out the earwax using water. If you don’t want to go this route, there are also over-the-counter drops that are proven to be an effective method for earwax removal.  It is best to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before treating earwax at home.

Fun Facts About Ear Wax

-There are two types of earwax (wet and dry) and which one you have depends on your genetics. People with Northeastern Asian ancestry, tend to have dryer earwax and wet earwax is common among Africans and Europeans.

-Earwax is self-cleaning. Most of the time, earwax will dry/flake up and fall out of your ears on its own.

-It is a misconception that having ear wax means your ears are dirty. In actuality, ear wax is the reason why your ears stay clean!

-Humans are not the only mammals that have ear wax. Animals like cats, dogs, and even whales have it as well!

-Earwax is similar to tears due to its lubricating properties. If humans didn’t have earwax, our ears would be exceptionally dry and constantly itchy.

-Most ear cleaning attempts usually result in an adverse effect on the health of a person’s ear.

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