Group issues updated guidelines for ear care and removal of ear wax.
Many young children are cautioned about sticking things into their ears by being told the only thing you can stick in your ear is your own elbow, knowing that it is a physical impossibility.
According to a release from eurekalert.org, the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation seems to agree with that advice and has released an updated clinical practice for diagnosis and treatment of excessive ear wax.
Earwax, officially known as cerumen, occurs naturally in the ears to help clean and protect the ears and keep them healthy. The substance traps dust, dirt, and other types of small matter entering the ear, and prevents them from going any further down the ear canal, which could lead to infections.
The ear has a self-cleaning process that pushes the old wax to the front, and as we chew, talk and grow new skin in the ear, the older wax normally flakes off and is washed away during bathing. But sometimes the process breaks down and wax can build up inside the ear.
According to the article, one of every 20 adults has a buildup of old wax than can partially block the ear canal, and in children, the number is even greater at one of every 10.
Seth R. Schwartz, MD, MPH, chair of the guideline updates for the group, said people feel unclean when they have wax in their ears and many do things they should not do to remove it.
“Patients often think that they are preventing earwax from building up by cleaning out their ears with cotton swabs, paper clips, ear candles, or any number of unimaginable things that people put in their ears. The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted further into the ear canal,” offered Dr. Schwartz. “Anything that fits in the ear could cause serious harm to the ear drum and canal with the potential for temporary or even permanent damage.”
Symptoms such as ear pain, itching, feeling as if the ear is stopped up, and changes in hearing can be caused by excessive ear wax, and compounded by attempts to remove it.
The group issued a list of guidelines for ear care that can be found here.
“This update is significant because it not only provides best practices for clinicians in managing cerumen impaction, it is a strong reminder to patients that ear health starts with them, and there are many things they should do as well as many things that they should stop doing immediately to prevent damage to their ears,” added Dr. Schwartz.