Do You Have to Clean Your Ears?
It’s a given that we all like to be clean, but is it possible to be too clean? Actually, yes, especially if we’re talking about your ears! While it’s not a bad idea to wipe the outer parts of your ear with a cloth while shaving or showering, too much cleaning, particularly of the inside portion of your ears, can actually do a lot more damage than good.
What is earwax?
When people see earwax inside their ears, they automatically think that it is a sign of being dirty and therefore needs to be cleaned. However, the complete opposite is true. Earwax, like everything in our body, has a purpose and that purpose is to keep dust and dirt away from the eardrum. As an added bonus, earwax has antimicrobial and lubricating properties.
While earwax seems gross, it is, after all, made up of shed skin cells and hair, its function is important. And if you take earwax out of your ear, it can throw off the balance of your ear system.
How do ears clean themselves?
Just as ears naturally produce earwax, so too, do ears remove earwax. Old earwax naturally moves down the ear canal once new earwax is produced. When you chew or talk, it causes enough vibrations and movement for earwax to slowly slide towards the opening of your ear. As this earwax moves outwards, it picks up and dirt or dust that may have settled in your ear, thus naturally cleaning your ear.
Why is it important that earwax is antimicrobial?
Infections in our bodies occur when bacteria enter our system through any open orifices. This can include our ears, mouth or any open wound. One place that is often overlooked is the ear. Earwax is antimicrobial which means that it can help to reduce the growth and spread of certain bacteria, thus preventing infection. While it does not guard against all bacteria, it does help protect against some common ones like E. coli.
Earwax can also help prevent the growth of some fungi. Because your ears are dark and often moist, they can be a popular breeding ground for fungi. The presence of earwax helps to stop or slow the growth of some fungi.
Why is it important that earwax act as a lubricant?
Earwax has lubricating properties which means that it helps to prevent burning and itching feelings inside your ear canal. Nobody wants to feel these sensations, so it’s important to allow earwax to help you not feel irritated.
When should you clean your ears?
If you feel like you have an excess build-up of earwax, you can add a few drops of warm water, baby oil or over-the-counter drops into your ears and then gently massage the outer ear. You should never use cotton swabs as this can impact the earwax and lead to blockages or even a pierced eardrum. If you think that your hearing has started to suffer because of earwax, or for any other matter, make sure you see a hearing care provider right away.