What Is Ear Wax? And How Much Is Too Much?

We’ve all dealt with it: that waxy, gooey, flaky stuff that comes out of our ears from time to time. It’s called earwax, of course. But what is it, actually? Is it good or bad? And how much is too much?

Let’s get to the bottom of all your questions about earwax.

What Is Ear Wax?

Let’s start with what it is. Earwax is a natural substance produced by your body. Its formal medical name is cerumen, and it’s made up of a body secretion called sebum, plus some skin cells and dirt and other debris.

If that sounds a little gross, well, now you know why everyone just calls it earwax.

Earwax Is a Good Thing

First off, we want to make sure that this point is clear: earwax is good, not bad. (At least most of the time.) The inner workings of your ear are extremely complex. They’re also very sensitive — they need to be if you want to hear fine details from far away. And, crucially, some components of your inner ear do not heal or repair themselves if they become damaged.

Earwax plays a large role in protecting these sensitive components by trapping dirt and other debris that enters your ear canal. Your ear produces wax both to clean itself and protect the sensitive parts.

Variations in Texture Can Be Normal

If you notice the texture of your earwax changing over time, you may be concerned that there’s a problem. The same is true if you notice that your earwax seems noticeably different than someone else’s. But there are perfectly normal reasons for both of these scenarios.

Your ethnicity can affect your earwax: those with East Asian or Native American ancestry tend to have drier, flakier earwax than those of other backgrounds. Your environment and even your diet can play a role. Expect earwax to be darker in colour when you have been in a dirty environment, for example.

Of course, if your earwax changes drastically or in a way that is concerning, a visit to your GP can allay any concerns.

How Much Is Too Much?

While earwax is natural and helpful, sometimes it can get annoying. And some people just naturally produce more of the stuff than others. Usually, excess earwax simply falls out of the ear. Or you may notice small clumps in the outer ear which you may simply wipe away with a cloth.

But sometimes earwax can accumulate in the ear canal and not come out as it should.

If you have too much earwax in your ear, you could suffer a partial or full blockage of the ear canal. Symptoms of this include your ears feeling full, ringing ears, partial hearing loss or infection.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like these, it may be time to consider ear wax removal. But before you jump into home remedies, there are some things you should know.

Ear Wax Removal: Cotton Buds Are Not the Answer

Many of us grew up using cotton buds or other tools to “get the earwax out.” For some, this is even a part of their grooming routine, like brushing their teeth.

However, doing this is counterproductive and can even damage your ears.

You should never stick anything down your ear canal for any reason. Not cotton buds, bobby pins, fingers or anything else. While you may manage some minor ear wax removal in this way, you’ll push more of the stuff down your ear canal. And pushing wax deeper into your ear canal is a recipe for blockages.

Not to mention, pushing an object down your ear canal is a prime way to damage the canal or even your eardrum.

Proper Ear Wax Removal

The best home remedy for ear wax removal is using a few drops of medical-grade olive or almond oil. Drop two or three drops in your ear several times a day for up to a week, and many blockages will loosen and begin to fall out naturally.

If this method doesn’t work, it’s time to visit a hearing centre for professional ear wax removal. Almond Hearing can help with one of several safe and usually painless methods.