Wondering what’s the best way to remove your ear wax? Here’s the safest method for ear wax removal, according to a doctor here in Singapore.
What exactly is ear wax?
“Ear wax, medically termed as ‘cerumen,’ is a natural build-up of secretions, dead skin cells dirt and hair produced in the ear,” says Dr Benjamin Loh, a general practitioner at DTAP Clinic (Dr Tan and Partners) with a special interest in the area of ENT. “It typically migrates from the inner to outer part of the ear canal before it is expelled from your ears,” he explains. In fact, ear wax is beneficial because it acts as a natural barrier by protecting the ear canal against water, insects, trauma, infection and other foreign bodies.
“Ordinarily, your ear should be capable of ‘self cleansing’ by clearing the ear wax out of the ear canal. However, problems arise when your ear is unable to function normally due to a substantial build-up, causing symptoms and discomfort, which may include ear pain, blocked ears, hearing loss, itching or a ringing sound in the ear.”
Ear wax removal
We all know how uncomfortable it can be to have wax lodged in our ears. And, we’re betting your first instinct is to stick your finger or another instrument in your ear to clear it. But that is a risky move, as it can damage your eardrum, says Dr Loh. Getting a non-professional to do it can be just as dangerous; it’s vital that a professionally trained doctor performs the removal.
“Attempting to remove ear wax yourself with a cotton bud or Q-Tip is a big no-no. Contrary to belief, this pushes the ear wax deeper into the canal, leading to further obstruction,” he says. “The ear canal system has its own natural cleansing way, and the natural equilibrium should not be disrupted. However, if you experience symptoms, you might want to consider having your ears checked for potential ear wax removal.”
Though there are different wax-clearing methods to relieve a patient’s discomfort, Dr Loh says one of the safest ways is through aural toilet with the aid of micro-suction and an ear microscope, as this enables the ear canal to be cleaned with greater precision.
“This method enables direct visualisation during the removal process, thus reducing the risk of damage to the ear canal and ear drum while inspecting it in detail,” he says. “This procedure should not hurt if it’s done properly. In fact, it can be a quite pleasant experience, as your hearing may sharpen immediately after removal of the ear wax! However, there might be some discomfort if you are having a concurrent ear infection.”
Dr Loh adds, “Due to the increased precision and stability, micro-suction is often used in situations where ear irrigation is inappropriate – when a patient has an ear infection, or patients a hole in their ear drum.” Children who are able to understand instructions and are willing to cooperate can benefit from this method as well.
The in-clinic micro-suction procedure takes only 15 to 20 minutes, and is followed by a hearing evaluation to ensure that good hearing has been restored, especially in situations where a patient had suffered a loss of hearing before the procedure, says Dr Loh.
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