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ALERT: Cleaning Your Ears Might Actually Do More Damage Than Good

Jan 04, 2017 11:46 AM EST

The American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation has provided an updated clinical practice guideline in relation with the dos and don'ts of earwax and healthy ear care.

The new guidelines, published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, showed that the ears have its own continual self-cleaning process and excessive cleaning of the ears could lead to more damage and more serious consequences, including permanent hear loss.

"There is an inclination for people to want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness. This misinformation leads to unsafe ear health habits," said Seth R. Schwartz, MD, MPH, chair of the guideline update group, in a press release. "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."

Schwartz noted that earwax or cerumen is a normal substance produced by the body to clean, protect and oil the ears. Acting as a self-cleaning agent, the sticky earwax keeps dirt, dust and other small matter from getting farther into the ear.

Old earwax can move from inside the ears to the ear opening with the help of simple and natural movements such as chewing, jaw motion and skin growing in the ear canal. The old earwax taken outside the ear opening will then dry and flakes off or get washed during bathing. The creation of new wax and pushing of the old wax is a normal continual process.

However, the continual process of the ear's self-cleaning ability can be disrupted and lead to the buildup of earwax. Symptoms of impacted earwax may include ear pain, itching, feeling of fullness in the ear, ringing in the ear, hearing loss, discharge or odor coming from ear, cough or change in hearing aid function.

Experts warn that people experiencing symptoms of impacted earwax should seek medical attention and NEVER use cotton swabs, hair pins, toothpicks and ear candles. Using any objects smaller than your elbow to clean your ears may cause laceration in the ear canal, perforation in the eardrum, dislocation of hearing bone. Damaged to these ear parts could lead to hearing loss, dizziness, ringing and ear injury.

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