Earwax is a natural substance, which is produced by glands in the skin of the outer ear canal.
Earwax is a waxy material, which is produced by glands inside the ear.
Earwax helps keep our ears healthy and clean: it stops the skin that lines our ear canal from drying and cracking and protects the ear by trapping dirt and repelling water so it helps to prevent infections.
For most of the time, our ear canals clean themselves. We talk, we chew and we move our jaws. While we’re doing that, the earwax and skin cells slowly move from the eardrum to the ear opening where it usually dries, and falls out.
Earwax doesn't usually cause problems, but, if too much earwax is produced, it can cause a blockage which can be painful or could cause hearing loss.
It helps to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as a temporary water repellent, and, without it, the ears can become dry and itchy, and infection may even arise.
When there is a build-up of earwax, a blockage can occur. When this happens, many patients will turn immediately to cotton buds but these will simply push the wax even further into the canal and push the wax even further into the canal.
Causes of earwax build-up
Unfortunately, if you’re more prone to produce too much earwax, the most common cause of earwax blockage is if you use cotton swabs, cotton bubs or other objects in your ear canal as these will push wax deeper, creating a blockage.
You’re also more likely to have wax build-up if you frequently use earphones. They can inadvertently prevent earwax from coming out of the ear canals and cause blockages.
Signs and symptoms of earwax build-up
The appearance of earwax varies from light yellow to dark brown. Darker colours don’t necessarily indicate that there’s a blockage.
Signs of earwax build-up include:
sudden or partial hearing loss, which is usually temporary
tinnitus - a ringing or buzzing in the ear
a feeling of fullness in the ear
Fortunately, if you are experiencing earwax, there is a lot that your community pharmacist can do for you under the Minor Ailment scheme.
Our pharmacists are fully trained in dealing with earwax and can also prescribe medications that can deal with it.
Olive oil ear drops and sodium bicarbonate ear drops are the first port of call for our pharmacists.
Eardrops are often the first option for wax removal as these often soften or loosen the wax so that it works its way out naturally.
Olive oil drops are warmed up to body temperature but can take quite a while to have an effect on the wax. You might need to repeat a few times a day to soften a waxy build-up.
If you think that your earwax is getting out of control, or is causing you distress…..call us at Toome Pharmacy for a consultation appointment, or call into the pharmacy to speak to one of our pharmacists, who will be able to assist you with this very treatable condition/