Health | Medical Tips

What is Ear Wax Made of-Why Do We Have Ear Wax
Jun 08, 2016
What is Ear Wax Made of-Why Do We Have Ear Wax

Another body’s mundane often being cursed for its gooey and gross nature, for its painful cleaning process, for its funky odor what so and what not is that of our ear wax.

Is ear wax really a bane?

Before jumping straight into this, let us have a brief description of ear wax.

Ear wax with scientific name cerumen is a secretion from the ceruminous glands of the ear canal containing both saturated and unsaturated long-chain fatty acids, cholesterol, squalene, and alcohols.

The components and percentage are as follows:

• 60% keratin(sulfur-containing fibrous proteins)

• 12-20% fatty acids(both saturated and unsaturated),squalene (an acyclic hydrocarbon) and alcohols

• 6-9% cholesterol

Ain’t it looks too scientific? Okay, let’s have a simple description.

Like eyelashes protecting the eye, like nose hair protecting the nose, ear-wax is the next on the list shielding the body from invasion of dust,bacteria, and other micro-organisms. When eyelashes and nose hair are considered a boon, then why consider ear-wax a bane? Think over!!!

Why is ear wax needed?

For further understanding, let us go deep into the need of ear wax now. A deep insight into the uses of ear-wax provides us with the following benefits:

• Prevention of bacteria germs from invading inner ears

• Dirt collection: Ear wax traps the dust entering the ear canal

• Prevention of bugs and insects from creeping into the ears by repelling the insects right in the ear opening

• Protection of delicate skin of ear canal by avoiding irritation that occurs when water is in the canal

• Lubrication of ear which further prevents desiccation and itching of the canal.

If it is a boon, then why blockages?

An interesting fact is that ears are self-cleaning which flakes off and falls out by the movement of jaws and chewing which churns the wax from the eardrum to the ear opening.

A misconception prevailing is that Q-tips (cotton buds) and other objects used for cleaning ear doesn’t really clean out the ear, instead, it tends to push the wax deeper into the ear canal. Beware folks!!!

Few other causes for blockages include:

• Usage of hearing aids, earphones and earplugs

• For a surprise swimming is also found to induce production of ear wax for some people due to the debris entering the ear from water

Types of ear wax

Wondering if there are types in earwax too. To your awe, yes there are two types of ear wax depending on your genetics.

Based on the type of cerumen, ear wax is categorized as the dominant dry type and the recessive wet type

The dry type: If the cerumen is gray and flaky it is of the dry type which is often found in North-Eastern Asians and Native Americans

The moist type: If the cerumen is brown and moist it is of the wet type found prominently in Africans and Europeans.

The difference here is attributed to a single base change of a specific gene called “ATP-binding cassette C11 gene” found in the cerumen

(Interesting fact: Not only humans have ear wax, it is also prominent in many types of whales and determination of age of whales with no teeth is sometimes done based on the size of the deposit of earwax)

What happens when excessive ear wax accumulates?

Yes! Most of us would have experienced this. Let us have a check at it:

• Mild to excess pain in the ear

• Itching sensation

• Tinnitus(condition that causes ringing or roaring sounds that only you can hear)

• Vertigo(a feeling of dizziness, a condition in which you are moving when you are not)

• A cough due to nerve stimulation resulting from the increased pressure inside the ear

• Infection caused by bacteria and germs

What need to be done?

Finally, you ought to know what you can do. If ear-wax is of not a big concern to you, then the following remedies can be followed right at your home:

• Using baby oil, almond oil, mineral oil, olive oil or glycerin into your ears

• Washing out the wax regularly with tepid water

• Syringing the ear with castoreum mixed with vinegar or the solution of sodium bicarbonate in water

• Using mixture of cucumber juice and rose leaves

There are so much you can do but what if the blockage is severe? The best recommendation is having your ear checked up by your otolaryngologist.

But remember this, the removal of earwax should occur only if the build-up is causing health problems as suggested by the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

Bottom Line:
Having said the above, try to avoid mishandling your ear, keep it clean and safe as it's your own pair of ears and ultimately it’s about individual health and well-being.


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