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Hearing Health:Earwax Removal Guide

Clear and unobstructed hearing is a priceless gift that allows us to connect with the world around us. Yet, sometimes, something as tiny as earwax can disrupt this harmony. 

Let's explore what causes this common issue and how to recognise the telltale signs that it might be time for some ear care. We’ll delve into the essential topic of earwax removal and ear cleaning, and guide you through the treatments available for earwax build-up. 

Updated: 21st February 2024

What is earwax?

Earwax is a natural and essential substance produced by our ear canals. It's a common occurrence and something that everyone has, playing a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of our ears.

Earwax is a complex mixture of substances, mainly consisting of dead skin cells, hair, and secretions from the ceruminous and sebaceous glands in the ear canal. These glands work in unison to produce a waxy, oily substance, known as earwax. 

While it might seem like an inconvenience, earwax serves several important functions. One of its main roles is to act as a protective barrier for the delicate skin of the ear canal. 

Let's explore into why earwax exists:

  • Helps prevent water, and dust
  • Lubricates the ear canal, making sure it doesn't become dry and itchy (essential for overall ear health).
  • Traps debris and bacteria, preventing it from travelling deeper into the ear canal. Where it could potentially cause infections or damage.
  • Our ears naturally pushes out older earwax from the ear canal as new wax is produced. This self-cleaning mechanism helps maintain a healthy environment for the ear.

If you want to find out more about why we have earwax, our guide will get you up to speed in no time. 

Earwax colour: what does it mean?

The appearance of earwax can differ from person to person, but typically, it should fall within a spectrum ranging from yellow, orange to a light brown colour. If your earwax doesn't fall within this range, continue reading to explore potential underlying causes.

Understanding the colour of your earwax can provide valuable insights into your ear health. If you notice unusual colours or experience any discomfort, seeking professional guidance is recommended.

Earwax consistency: what’s normal?

Ever wondered why earwax can vary in consistency? This consistency can vary person to person and can be influenced by factors like genetics and the environment. Some may have wetter earwax, whilst others might experience drier or flakier earwax. 

Understanding your earwax can provide insights into your ear health and guide appropriate care and cleaning practices.

Watery Earwax

Watery earwax differs from the kind you get after swimming; it might signal otitis externa, commonly known as swimmer's ear. This watery discharge can also occur from a middle ear infection, which isn't exactly earwax but pus from the infection. If you suspect an infection, antibiotics can help. Seek your GP's advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Another possible cause is a cholesteatoma, a skin growth in the ear canal; consult your doctor for guidance if you suspect this condition.

Flaky Earwax

Flaky earwax is often seen in people of Asian descent or as an effect of ageing, where it tends to become drier and flakier. It might also point to underlying issues like eczema or an ear infection if accompanied by itching or inflammation.

If you experience itching or inflammation along with flaky earwax, consult your GP for an assessment and potential treatment.

You can learn more about the colour, consistency and smell of earwax with our guide.

Should earwax be removed?

Your ears have the remarkable ability to self-clean, since they’re naturally designed to maintain ear hygiene. In most cases, there's no need to actively remove earwax. However, certain situations may arise where intervention becomes necessary.

What will happen if I don't have my earwax removed?

Excessive earwax build-up can lead to discomfort and various problems. Neglecting its removal could result in  earache, muffled hearing, and even Tinnitus (a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears). However, it's crucial to rule out other underlying conditions, such as ear infections or colds, before attempting earwax removal.

What will happen if I don't have my earwax removed?

The frequency of earwax removal varies from person to person. Some may require it infrequently, whilst others might need more regular attention. It's essential to monitor your ear health and seek professional guidance if you experience discomfort or notice changes in your hearing. Your audiologist can provide personalised advice on maintaining clear and healthy ears.

Different earwax removal techniques

When it comes to managing excess earwax, healthcare professionals have various effective techniques at their disposal. Each method has its advantages and is selected based on your needs and preferences.

These earwax removal techniques offer tailored solutions for different ear conditions and individual preferences. Consulting with a healthcare professional will help determine the most suitable method for your specific needs.

If you have any concerns or have noticed a change in your hearing, book a free hearing health check with one of our trained professionals, who will be happy to help.

How to clean earwax at home

Important safety tips

Only attempt earwax removal at home if your symptoms are not urgent, and you haven't noticed any concerning issues like pain or changes in your hearing. Never insert objects like cotton swabs or hairpins into your ear canal. This can push the wax deeper and potentially cause harm.

Avoid the use of ear candles too, as this can result in injuries, burns, or even eardrum perforation.

For more tips on cleaning your ears, our cleaning advice can help.

Frequently asked questions

Does Boots Hearingcare have an earwax removal service?

Yes in selected locations. We are continuing to work on improving our earwax removal service in the hope that we can offer nationwide coverage in the future.

What dissolves earwax fast?

Ear drops containing hydrogen peroxide or saline solution can help dissolve earwax when used as directed. However, it's essential to follow proper guidelines and consult a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

How can I tell if my ear is blocked with wax?

Common signs of earwax blockage include reduced hearing, earache, tinnitus, and a sensation of fullness in the ear. If you experience these symptoms, it's advisable to seek professional evaluation.

What causes earwax build-up?

Earwax is a natural substance produced by the ear to protect and lubricate it. However, factors like genetics, excessive earwax production, or improper ear cleaning methods can lead to earwax build-up.

What is the best way to remove earwax?

The best method for earwax removal depends on individual circumstances. Consult an audiologist or healthcare provider to determine the most suitable approach, which may include ear irrigation, micro-suction, or manual removal.

What is the best treatment for earwax?

The appropriate treatment for earwax depends on the severity of the blockage. Ear drops, professional removal by an audiologist, or, in some cases, microsuction may be recommended.

What is the best way to clean ears?

To clean the outer ear, use a damp washcloth and mild soap. However, avoid inserting objects into the ear canal, as this can push the earwax deeper or cause injury. 

For earwax management, consult a healthcare professional.

Where to buy an earwax removal kit?

While you can find earwax removal kits at various retailers, it's crucial to approach earwax removal with caution. Over-the-counter kits may not be suitable for everyone, and improper use can lead to complications or damage. For safe and effective earwax removal, it's best to consult with a specialist. At Boots Hearingcare, our expert audiologists provide professional earwax removal services. Book an appointment with us for a thorough and safe solution.

What's the easiest way to remove ear wax at home?

While there are various methods for removing ear wax at home, it's crucial to approach it with caution. Inserting objects like cotton swabs into the ear canal can push wax deeper or cause injury. Safer options include using over-the-counter ear drops or warm water to soften the wax. However, for effective and safe earwax removal, it's recommended to consult an Audiologist or healthcare professional to avoid potential harm.

emma jarvis

Written By:
Emma Jarvis

Digital Optimisation Lead

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Medically Reviewed By:
Asher Mathew Salmon
Audiology Expert