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We all have earwax, but some people have more than others. Earwax is one of the body’s many self-cleaning devices; however, when impacted, it can cause some pretty serious problems. Earwax plays an integral part in maintaining hearing health. Understanding what’s what with earwax will almost certainly help you take better long-term care of your ears. Boots Hearingcare looks at why we have earwax, as well as how we can use it to ensure improved quality of hearing…
What is earwax?
Made in the outer ear canal via special glands, earwax is a sticky, usually yellow substance that helps keep the ear clean, infection-free and healthily moist. The medical name for earwax is cerumen, and it travels slowly through the outer ear canal to the opening of the ear, where it either falls out or is removed with washing. Most people produce earwax continually, which means they always have enough to keep their ears clean.
How does earwax work?
Earwax has many important jobs. This is because the ears are complex and delicate organs that need careful maintenance in order to function properly.
Earwax works by:
  • Protecting and moisturizing the ear canal skin
  • Preventing dry, itchy ears
  • Utilising special chemicals that help ward off ear infections
  • Shielding the eardrum
  • Trapping dust, dirt, water and other things that can enter your ear, so they don’t travel any further
Earwax is essential to good ear health. However, build-up can easily be problematic for your overall quality of hearing. If you suspect too much earwax, contact your family doctor/GP or a hearing health care professional immediately.
Earwax colour meaning
You can tell a lot from earwax simply by its colour. For instance, yellow or orange earwax is a good sign that your ears are healthy. Dark brown earwax, on the other hand, tends to show age and the possible accumulation of debris over time.

The truth is earwax comes in many colours, some of which may seem quite alarming at first. These include:
  • Off-white
  • Yellow
  • Bright orange
  • Dark orange
  • Brown
  • Black
Earwax colour can vary and is not always an obvious indicator of something wrong.

Nevertheless, any suspicions about the colour of your earwax and what it might mean should be discussed with a doctor or hearing specialist – especially if relating to how you perceive sound.
The problem with excessive earwax
While earwax protects the ear from outside nasties, too much can cause problems – and the symptoms often prove quite serious. These include: If you notice these symptoms, go to the doctor for a check-up. Thankfully, there are earwax removal services you can use to eliminate the build-up and restore your natural hearing once again.

Alternatively, if the issue isn’t too serious, you may wish to try removing the earwax yourself at home. If you’d like guidance on how to go about this, check out our tips for safe ear cleaning at home.
What about ear candling?
Some people think that ear candling can help relieve symptoms of excessive earwax. This is simply not the case.

Ear candling involves inserting long, hollow, lit candles into the ear to remove excessive wax. Some people believe that they can literally melt their earwax troubles away by using this process, but ultimately it could end up making things worse.

Under no circumstances should you attempt ear candling – it can cause severe burns, ear canal obstructions or perforations, leading to deterioration of hearing health. If earwax is causing you a problem, the safest course is to see a doctor and make an informed decision about how best to proceed.
With earwax, the main thing to remember is that it’s not usually a cause for concern. However, if earwax starts giving you problems, see an audiologist or your doctor to determine what’s causing the trouble.

Worried about earwax build-up? Speak to a professional at Boots Hearingcare for advice…