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FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is earwax?
Earwax, or cerumen, is an oily substance produced by glands in the ear canal. It's usually yellow to brown in color, but the amount produced and texture can vary from person to person. Chewing and other jaw movements help to move earwax from inside the ear canal towards the …
What is the purpose of earwax?
As earwax travels along the ear canal, it collects hair, dead skin cells, dust and bacteria. As well as preventing these foreign substances from travelling deeper into the ear, it also gives the ear canal a protective coating. Without earwax, the skin inside …
How does earwax build-up occur?
It is not always clear what causes a build-up of earwax. However, it tends to be more common in people who naturally produce large amounts of dry earwax. Similarly, earwax that collects a lot of foreign substances or remains in the ear canal for a long time …
Who is most likely to experience earwax build-up?
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing a build-up of earwax include: increasing age; frequent use of earphones or hearing aids; cleaning the ears with cotton buds; ear abnormalities, such as particularly narrow or hairy …
How is an earwax build-up diagnosed?
To examine a build-up of earwax, your doctor will most likely look into the ear with an instrument called an otoscope.
How is earwax build-up treated?
A build-up of earwax may be treated using softening agents such as baby oil, olive oil, mineral oil or glycerin. For an ongoing build-up of earwax, your doctor may suggest an ear-drop medication to soften earwax. In cases where build-up of earwax is severe …
Will earwax build-up clear up on its own?
In most cases, earwax flakes off and falls out of the ear canal without the need for treatment.
Can earwax build-up be prevented?
While it is not possible to reduce the amount of earwax produced, using ear drops on a regular basis may prevent build-ups by keeping wax soft. Pushing wax further into the ear may be avoided by only cleaning the outer, visible part of the ear, rather than …
About this article
Author: Lauren Donley BSc (Hons)
First answered: 18 Sep 2014
Last reviewed: 19 May 2018
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Votes: 670 (Click smiley face below to rate)
Category: Outer ear infections