Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Welcome to Euan's ENT and Thank God It's Friday (TGIF) folks!
Today's blogpost is about Ear Wax and some myths about ear wax.
Our ears actually produce wax (cerumen) which lines the ear canal skin. Cerumen has some anti-biotic properties and is generally not a problem for most Homo sapiens, unless you have certain conditions e.g. keratosis obturans where the ear wax does not migrate outwards but steadily accumulates and even expands the ear canal. This is rare indeed!
Ear wax is slightly acidic, and it has antibacterial properties. Without ear wax, the ear canal would become dry, waterlogged, and prone to infection. However, when ear wax over-accumulates or becomes hard, it can cause problems, including blockage and hearing loss.
So we all love to "clean" our ears! Be it with cotton buds, little digger spoons (the Aristocrats of old had fancy gold spoons) or curettes, or various home remedies.
In Singapore, some of us guys have Malay / Indian barbers who would clean our ear wax and trim those little ear canal hairs after our regular hair-cut, free of charge too.
Well, the best advice I can give you today is:
Please do not dig your ears or use Q tips, as these only tend to impact and push the ear wax even deeper inwards! That's when the problem starts! Often with impacted wax, water gets trapped during our bath / shower / swim, and the ear canal skin can get infected, resulting in pain, swelling or inflammation (Otitis Externa).
Now, let's talk about something that seems to be increasingly popular amongst Singaporeans these past few years:
The Spokane Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic conducted a research study in 1996, which concluded that ear candling does not produce negative pressure and was actually ineffective in removing wax from the ear canal. Several studies have shown that ear candles produce the same residue when burnt without ear insertion and that the residue is simply candle wax and soot. So it's a scam, folks.
As of 2008, there are at least two cases in which people have set their houses on fire while ear candling, one of which resulted in death.
A survey of ENT surgeons found some doctors who had treated people with complications from ear candling, with burns were the most common. Personally, I recall a nightmarish case where the candle wax somehow leaked into the ear canal and solidified in the patient's ear canal! In the end, we had to arrange removal of the candle wax under General Anaesthesia in the Operating Theatre, incurring a lot of unnecessary discomfort and expenses for the patient.
So folks, if you do want your ear wax cleaned out, please see your GP or friendly ENT Specialist who is trained to do it safely and professionally. If you would like to make an appointment for an ear cleaning with our clinic, you can contact us at Euan's ENT Surgery & Clinic, call us at +65 6694 4882 during office hours, or email us at email@example.com. Dr Euan may perform an otoscopy to observe the ear canal before an earwax cleaning.
Dr Euan examining a patient's ears
If the ear wax is solidly impacted and hard; we may ask you to apply olive oil ear drops a few times a day for a week to loosen the wax, then come back for the wax removal. This makes the whole ear cleaning procedure much easier and more comfortable for you.
So remember our favourite acronyms when caring for your ears:
KED (Keep Ears Dry)
DND (Do Not Dig)
That's it for today, folks
Thanks for tuning in! TGIF :-)