Cerumen is an essential part of your body’s natural defense and covers important functions such as keeping your ear canal clean, lubricated and protected from the growth of bacteria.
But while having moderate levels of cerumen is natural, earwax buildup is something you should address as soon as you notice it. Excessive cerumen production can lead to severe blockages, trigger temporary hearing loss and cause permanent damage to the ear. People experiencing earwax buildup might also experience hearing impairments, such as tinnitus and itching.
Since earwax buildup can stem from a wide range of causes, it is important to understand what are the factors that influence cerumen production and treat the condition at the root. Here are some of the factors that might trigger excessive cerumen production and lead to impacted earwax.
Improper Ear Hygiene
Just like you brush your teeth every morning, following an ear hygiene routine is important. However, most people use inefficient or even dangerous solutions to keep their ears clean and healthy.
For example, the use of cotton swabs is extremely common – and yet it is the worst thing you could possibly do to your ears! At-home solutions like inserting foreign objects into your ears, using ear candles to melt the earwax, and dripping essential oils into the ear might seem like they work at first. However, in the long term, your earwax buildup issue is likely to come back – and you might have already permanently damaged your ear!
After all, tools like cotton swabs might puncture the ear canal and cause micro abrasions to the walls of the ear. Even worse, when not used properly, swabs can end up pushing the cerumen further down the ear canal, thus contributing to impacted earwax.
It is also important to keep in mind that cleaning your earwax on a regular basis might trigger your ear’s sebaceous glands into producing more cerumen to keep the ear protected. So, your efforts might not just be risky – but also counterproductive!
If you have been dealing with overproduction of earwax and you have resorted to at-home medical treatments, make sure to follow the instructions and avoid excessive cleaning.
Pollen, Allergens and Physical Stress
If you experience seasonal allergies, you know what to expect: itchy eyes, dripping nose, coughing and a sore throat. But allergies can affect many more body parts than just your sinuses. For example, allergens can affect your skin and lead to dermatitis and eczema.
However, while you might be expecting it, pollen and other allergens – like dust, pet dander and mold spores – can also severely affect your ears. Indeed, these allergens can cause irritation in the ear canal, thus triggering a defense response from the sebaceous glands in the ears and causing excessive production of earwax.
Another reason why you might be dealing with excessive earwax is that your body is experiencing high levels of stress. As our lifestyles become more hectic by the minute, it is normal to feel stressed. However, learning how to manage and keep at bay stress isn’t just important for your mental and cardiovascular health – it is also essential to keep your ears healthy!
When you feel stressed or fearful, your apocrine glands ramp up their cerumen production – in the same way in which stress can cause excessive sweating, trigger skin breakouts and worsen acne.
Objects Getting in Contact with The Ear’s Skin
Using headphones and speaking on the phone are daily activities we don’t always think much about. However, when foreign objects come in contact with the sensitive skin of the year, they cause a contact stimulus, thus causing the ear glands to respond by producing more cerumen.
If you are using a hearing aid – which can cause excessive cerumen production – you might not be able to always prevent impacted earwax. However, to lower the chances of this happening, you should consider keeping your device as clear of moisture and debris as possible.
Preventing Impacted Earwax: Partner with an Audiologist
The overproduction of earwax can be caused by a multitude of factors, including your age, health conditions, medications and lifestyle. For example, the sweat produced during a workout, which might leak into the ear, can lead to excessive earwax. In the same way, people who have skin conditions like eczema are also more likely to experience cerumen buildup.
In any case, working with an audiologist at Flynn Associates can help you better understand what is causing such high levels of cerumen production and how to treat them. Learn more about Flynn Associates and our services here, or get in touch with our Concord base at (978) 759-3540, or contact our Wellesley studio at (781) 943-5040.