ear wax cerumen - ear anatomy

Cerumen (Ear Wax)



April 13, 2024

  • Cerumen, commonly referred to as earwax, is a waxy substance that is naturally produced by the human body in the ear canal.
  • It is a mixture of secretions from the ceruminous and sebaceous glands in the ear canal, as well as dead skin cells.
  • Cerumen serves several important functions:
  • Protection: One of the primary functions of earwax is to protect the ear canal and the eardrum from dust, dirt, microorganisms, and other foreign particles. It forms a barrier that prevents these substances from entering the deeper parts of the ear.
  • Moisturization: Cerumen helps to keep the skin in the ear canal moist, preventing it from becoming dry and itchy.
  • Cleaning: The ear has a self-cleaning mechanism in which new earwax is continually produced, and old earwax, along with any trapped debris, is gradually pushed outwards toward the ear opening. The movement of the jaw during activities like chewing also contributes to this cleaning process.
  • In most cases, earwax naturally migrates out of the ear canal, dries up, and eventually falls out of the ear.
  • However, in some instances, earwax can become impacted, which means it accumulates and hardens in the ear canal.
  • This can lead to symptoms such as hearing loss, earache, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, or a sensation of fullness in the ear.
  • When earwax becomes impacted and causes problems, it may need to be removed.
  • It is important to seek professional medical advice in such cases.
  • Healthcare professionals can safely remove impacted earwax using specialized tools or earwax-softening drops.
  • It is not recommended to attempt self-removal of earwax using objects like cotton swabs, as this can push the wax further into the ear canal and potentially lead to injury or further impaction.
  • Cleaning the ears should be done by a qualified healthcare provider when necessary.