You’ve probably been told since childhood that you must remember to clean the wax out of your ears as part of your daily hygiene routine. Otolaryngologists however, who are really the authority on the subject, say otherwise.

The technical term for what we usually refer to as earwax is cerumen, and believe it or not it actually has a purpose – it protects the inner ear from damage. Furthermore, the term “wax” is a misnomer.

Cerumen is water soluble and contains various bodily secretions, along with ear hair and dead skin flakes. The body expels unnecessary cerumen on its own – trying to rush that process can actually be harmful.

“Cerumen impaction” can occur when an individual tries to remove earwax themselves, and they subsequently unintentionally push some of it further down the ear canal. One of the most common ways in which people try to remove their own earwax is by using cotton swabs, yet as you may notice, in most cases the packaging warns against this practice.

Ear candles are also growing in popularity as many seek New Age solutions for their health, however the FDA does not view this as an acceptable practice (according to a warning posted on the FDA website in February 2010), while healthcare professionals state that such products do not work and also warn of the potential dangers of using ear candles.

So, what if a person actually has too much cerumen or suffers from cerumen impaction? There are several methods that an otolaryngologist can use to remedy these situations, including suction devices, ear syringes, irrigation techniques, and also wax dissolving methods which can remove earwax without causing damage to the ear.

Be sure to get checked regularly if you require the use of hearing aids, because cerumen impaction can affect the proper use of the hearing aid – potentially causing feedback or even damaging the device. If you wear hearing aids, consider having your ears cleaned out by a professional once or twice a year to stay clear of cerumen impaction.

Unfortunately, there are no proven, acceptable methods for dealing with cerumen impaction at home – therefore, if you are experiencing inner ear pain, ringing in your ears, or itchiness within the ear canal, seek the assistance of a professional.