Episode 15: Wax in, Wax out

We all experience wax build up in our ear canals at some point. Ear wax, or cerumin as its known in medicine, is the waxy substance that is secreted by the ear canal in just about everyone, and is a defense mechanism we have to protect our ear canals from dirt, bacteria, fungi, water and bugs getting deeper into our ears and harming our ear drums and hearing. Many people out there use a q-tip to clean out their ears if they get wax buildup, yet this is ineffective and will only succeed in pushing the wax in deeper. It can also be harmful if inserted too deeply as perforation of the tympanic membrane or eardrum results. The ear cleans itself due to a conveyor belt action from the formation of epithelial skin cells, which migrate directionally from the center of the eardrum outwards, towards the entrance of the ear canal. Along the way, sweat glands secrete viscous oils that mix with dead skin cells and other debris, and the mixture becomes what we call ear wax. The conveyor belt movement of cells plus the muscle contractions that occur when we chew food are what moves the wax along until it comes out on its own. However, sometimes things don’t move along quite so smoothly, and the wax either builds up or gets stuck. That brings us to the intervention. When ear wax is too dry, it tends to harden and can form a plug that is difficult to move. To prevent this hardening, simply add two drops of castor oil to each ear after you get out of the shower in the morning. Castor oil will soften the wax so that it travels easier, without drying out and building up. If there is already a build-up that gets stuck, use the castor oil drops daily for one week, then get a public health nurse to remove it safely.

Typically, this involves gently streaming lukewarm saline solution with a big syringe to wash out the ear. The loosened wax is then dislodged and comes out easily.

Stay tuned next week when we’ll talk about the benefits of apple cider vinegar.

Be Well and Be Zen

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