Let's talk about Eax Wax...
A blog post on ear wax gives me a great opportunity to post lots of pictures of horrible looking ears...
You'll be relieved to read that I won't be including any close-up pics of ear wax here. Instead, this is former English and British & Irish Lions prop Graham Rowntree...
Firstly, what is Ear Wax?
It's normal, and it's necessary. Ear wax is a waxy substance that is secreted in our ear canals. It protects the skin of the ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides protection against bacteria, fungi, insects, and water.
Ear wax usually falls out on its own, in flakes or small pieces. When it doesn't, it can begin to block your ear. A build-up of ear wax is a fairly common problem, and it can be treated by your local pharmacist.
How does Ear Wax build-up?
Things like wearing a hearing aid, or using a cotton bud to clean your ears, can interrupt the ear's natural self-cleaning process - leading to a build up of wax. Sometimes, it just doesn't fall naturally out of our ears.
It's important to not use your fingers or an object such as a cotton bud to try to clean your ears. Instead of removing ear wax, it's more likely that you'll be pushing this farther into your ear canal. Over time, this makes it harder for your ear drum to vibrate, which can cause hearing loss.
"You shouldn't put anything in your ear that's smaller than your elbow" advises William H. Shapiro - an audiologist and a clinical associate professor at New York University Langone. This sounds like it's sensible advice...
As well as hearing loss, a build-up of wax can cause other problems in our ears, and can be uncomfortable. Other symptoms of a build-up of Ear Wax include: ear ache, Tinnitus (when you experience hearing a ringing, whooshing, humming or buzzing sound), itchiness, or vertigo (the sensation that you, or the environment around you, is moving or spinning).
It can also cause a hearing aid to whistle.
A build up of ear wax is more common in older people who tend to have harder, drier wax.
How is a build-up of Ear War treated?
A build-up of Ear Wax can now be treated through the Minor Ailments Scheme that's available in pharmacies in Northern Ireland. This service is free and involves the pharmacist prescribing a suitable product to remove the wax. Products available on the Minor Ailments scheme for the removal of ear wax include Olive Oil ear drops, and Sodium Bicarbonate 5% ear drops.
If you're experiencing any of the symptoms we've described above, simply call into your local Community Pharmacy and ask to speak to the pharmacist.
Using Ear Drops
Before using ear drops, you may wish to warm the bottle in your hands for a few minutes - to make insertion of the drops more comfortable. Lie down with the affected ear pointing upwards; gently pull your ear back and down to open the ear canal.
In children, the ear just needs pulled back to open the ear canal.
Place the required number of drops into the ear and remain in position for five to ten minutes to allow the drops to enter the ear canal.
Cotton buds should not be used to clean the ear as they push the wax back into the ear causing it to build up. Using a wet flannel or moist tissue to clean the outer ear is all that is needed.