The temperatures have dropped in many areas around the country leaving fingers, toes and noses feeling the icy bite. What you may not realize is the impact winter weather can have on your ears. Not only has cold weather been linked to exostosis when small nodules of bone thicken the ear canal, it can also lead to excess earwax production. While earwax does have its purpose, here what you need to know about earwax, the extra wax you may have this time of year and how to cope with it.
What It Is
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance produced by the outer part of the ear canal to help protect the ear. It is believed to have antibacterial properties and can vary in appearance and production from person to person.
What Does It Do?
Earwax may seem like a sticky nuisance sometimes, but it actually plays an important role in protecting your ears. Not only can it help keep bacteria from wreaking havoc on the inner workings of your ear, it is also essential for keeping your ears clean. As surprising as this may sound, it’s true! As the wax is secreted and slowly moves down the canal (aided by your everyday jaw movements like chewing), it collects dust and other particles and carries those and dead skin cells out with it. For this reason, it should be left to do its job rather than pushed around (or deeper into) the ear. In fact, a too clean ear, without enough earwax to protect it, is often an itchy and uncomfortable ear.
How To Cope With Too Much Earwax
With that said, there is such a thing as too much earwax. This excess production can be caused by winter weather, certain health conditions and even the regular use of hearing aids. The excess earwax can lead to a blockage, which in turn can cause earaches, infections and even hearing loss. Here’s how to cope with too much earwax:
- Whatever you do, don’t put a cotton swab or other object in your ear to remove the earwax. Contrary to what many of us were taught, this can often impact the earwax rather than removing it, making the problem worse and risking damage to the eardrum.
- Have a professional earwax cleaning or earwax removal. Your hearing healthcare provider can help either by completing the procedure in their office or making a recommendation for another provider. Professionals are able to quickly and easily remove excess earwax without risking damage to your ears. If you wear hearing aids, it is especially important to manage excess earwax that can damage your devices.
- In-home earwax removal using over the counter products is another common option for coping with extra earwax. Discuss the best options for at-home solutions with your hearing healthcare provider. Some at-home remedies can pose a danger to your ears.
Earwax is an essential part of our ears, but there’s no doubt that too much of it can be a problem. This winter, follow these tips to cope with earwax and keep your ears and hearing healthy.