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Ear wax is made from some glands in the ear canal that form an oily substance that protect the ear drums and ear canals. Everybody produces some ear wax, but some people may produce too much wax which then hardens and may cause some hearing loss.
The most important thing to remember is not to use an implement such as a cotton bud or even a finger to remove any earwax as this may damage the ear canal and the tiny hairs inside the canal that gently move the wax out to the outer ear, which is how the ear cleans itself.
The cause of excessive earwax may also be from hearing aids or frequent use of ear plugs, which stop the flow of earwax to the outer ear, and may allow the wax to build up, needing careful removal.
Earwax removal is best carried out either by a doctor or nurse, or by seeing your community pharmacist, who will be able to advise you on the right product to soften and aid the removal of ear wax that is bothering you.
Products commonly used to assist in the softening and removal of ear wax use either water or oils to dissolve the wax. Usually several drops of the wax softening solution is placed in the ear canal, and the canal plugged with a little cotton wool overnight, to soak up the dissolved ear wax. This is repeated for two or three nights, to allow the hardened wax to flow out of the ear, and restore the normal amount of lubrication that ear wax provides.
Other options available include a product made from seawater, which is used every night for two weeks to dissolve away any hardened wax.
The use of ear ‘candling’ is controversial, and is claimed by some alternative practitioners to improve health. Its benefit has not been clearly proven, and cannot be recommended as a method to remove excess ear wax.
For advice about ear wax, its removal and help to lessen the impact of excessive ear wax production, your pharmacist will be able to guide you to the right product or refer you to a doctor, nurse or other health professional to ensure that your hearing and ear health is the best it can be.