You know what they say about making assumptions. But I’m going to throw caution to the wind and make one anyway.
I assume you don’t spend too much time pondering over your earwax.
UNLESS it’s a problem, that is. And then you likely spend far TOO MUCH time worrying about wax.
But here’s the thing. A buildup of earwax could be causing symptoms you’ve never connected with the gunk in your ears before.
Experts say too much earwax could…
- plug up your ear canal and make you cough
- cause you to lose some hearing
- trigger an earache
- make you develop ringing or other strange noises in your ears
- be behind an ear infection
- break a hearing aid (REALLY)
And it’s not just too much of the stuff that can be a problem. Too little can make your ears itch and can also lead to infection.
The truth is the right amount of earwax is essential to keep your ears in good health.
Earwax has a CRITICAL job to do
Glands in the external part of your ear canal make earwax.
Its job is to protect your inner ear. The wax blocks water and traps dirt, debris, and bacteria. This keeps them from going too deep, where they could damage your eardrum.
Plus keep THIS in mind the next time you’re feeling annoyed over your “gross” earwax.
It’s powerful stuff. It contains at least 10 different substances which prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Your ear is an incredible self-cleaning machine
Nature designed your ear to be an incredible self-cleaning machine.
Your earwax collects all the trash that can harm your ears and hearing. As you chew and move your jaw, dirty wax works its own way out, taking the garbage with it.
Then your glands make more, to keep trapping unwanted gunk.
It’s an ongoing, 24/7 job. And typically, it doesn’t require any help from us.
But let’s face it nothing in life is perfect. And self-cleaning ears aren’t either.
When earwax goes wrong
Some folks are prone to making too much or too little wax. Scientists aren’t yet sure why. Plus the consistency and amount of earwax you create can also change, as you get older.
But neither of those things cause the majority of problems. The most common problem is for a blockage to form deep in the ear because wax ended up too far down the canal.
And I’ll give you one guess how that usually happens.
If you predicted that we push it there ourselves, you’re right. Blockages often occur when someone tries to clean out his or her ear with a cotton swab or some other object.
This type of blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, according to the ear experts at the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
Remove the earwax properly (more on that later), and hearing often comes back.
But if the wax was pushed into the canal with enough force to begin with, it could cause permanent damage to the inner ear.
Why earwax build-up can make you cough
It isn’t hard to imagine that a blocked ear can cause hearing loss. Or how stuck wax that’s chock full of trash could lead to an infection.
But the surprising connection between earwax and coughing is a bit more complicated.
You have a long nerve in your body which runs from your brain down through your neck, chest, and abdomen.
It’s the longest nerve that comes out of the brain. And it touches so many other parts of the body that its name, the vagus nerve, comes from the Latin word for “wandering.”
From time to time earwax can be stuck in a spot which irritates your vagus nerve. And that can make you feel the urge to cough.
How to unblock ear wax safely
If your ears feel plugged up, or you suspect you may have a blockage, it’s best to get it checked by your doctor.
The only surefire way to tell if earwax is stuck too deep is with a scope that enables him to look inside the ear. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s painless.
Your doc can easily flush out a blockage in his office. Plus he can give you instructions for safely taking care of your ears at home.
Ear drops from the drugstore can soften wax to help it slide out more easily without putting a cotton swab into your ear. Some kits come with a bulb syringe that allows you to flush out your ear gently with water too.