Can you recognize diseases from earwax 1

Can diseases be recognized by earwax?

28.04.2022, 11:14 a.m. | Ann-Kathrin Landzettel, t-online

Earwax: If too much is removed, unpleasant itching can result. (Source: RapidEye/Getty Images)

It protects, cleans, cares for and fights germs: everyone has their own individual earwax. We explain when you should go to the doctor with the secretion and why cotton swabs are a real risk for the ears.

Earwax – cerumen in medical terms – is a waxy substance produced by the earwax glands. Earwax is composed of fat, sebum and bitter substances. The ear secretion protects the sensitive skin of the ear canal from drying out, cleans the ear of dust, germs and other substances foreign to the ear, and has an antibacterial and antiviral effect due to its bitter substances.

"The composition of earwax varies from person to person. Each person has its own unique composition", white Dr. Michael Deeg, ear, nose and throat specialist and press spokesman for the German professional association of ear, nose and throat specialists e.V. Earwax can be whitish, yellow to dark brown in color. For some it's tough and sticky, for others it's dry and crumbly.

Earwax plugs: How much earwax is normal in the ear??

How much earwax the ear produces also varies from person to person. Deeg has patients who come in for ear cleaning every four weeks. Others have to deal with a troublesome earwax plug only every few years. And some never have problems. "The more earwax the ear produces, the narrower the ear canal and the drier the secretion, the greater the risk that it will become stuck in the ear and clog the ear canal", according to the ear, nose and throat specialist. A dull feeling and prere in the ear and worsened hearing may be indications of an earwax plug.

Especially people with very dry skin would tend to have stuck earwax plugs. Under no circumstances should you then handle the cotton swab yourself – otherwise you'll only push the earwax deeper toward the eardrum and risk injury. It is better to have ear cleaning done by an ENT doctor.

Recognize diseases by earwax – is it possible??

Recognizing diseases from earwax? According to the expert, earwax alone does not indicate a diseased ear – neither the color nor the consistency. One should become attentive, if the ear begins to hurt or liquid secretion escapes.

Blood in the ear is also an indication that something is wrong, as are hearing problems. "Then you should always consult an ear, nose and throat specialist", advises Deeg. If there is a slight tugging in the ear, you can first try it with an onion bag or a warm cherry pit cushion. If the complaints do not improve after one day, the same applies here: Go to the doctor.

Ear cleaning: What's the deal with epithelial migration??

The ear cleans itself with the help of the so-called epithelial migration. This means that the skin tie in the ear canal grows bit by bit from the inside to the outside and transports the earwax in the direction of the ear canal – and with it germs, dust, hairs and rarely even small animals like flies.

"It is not, as is often amed, the hairs in the ear canal that push the earwax outwards. The cleaning of the ear is solely due to the epithelial migration", explains Deeg. "If you were to draw a small ink dot inside the ear canal, you could watch it slowly move toward the auricle over time."

No-go: "Keep your hands off cotton swabs"

Cotton swab for ear cleaning? The ENT doctor reacts disapprovingly and advises to do without it. If too much earwax is removed, the ear canal loses important protection. Earwax is not only like a rich care cream for the delicate skin, but at the same time also an important protective shield. It prevents germs from entering the ear through the skin.

If you clean the ear with a cotton swab, you not only remove the valuable protection. It irritates the skin with the rough surface of the ear swab and favors micro-injuries – an entrance door for fungal infections and bacteria. And not only that: "The more earwax you remove from the ear, the more your ear will produce, because it wants to restore the protection," says Deeg, says Deeg. It can also cause uncomfortable itching – which in turn tempts you to "scratch" with a cotton swab, to achieve relief. A vicious cycle – with great risk of injury to the ear.

How to clean ears properly?

The ENT doctor has a tip for gentle ear cleaning: under the shower, with water "as far as the fingers can reach". This keeps the deeper ear canal protected. Does not irritate unnecessarily. After a shower, the ear is best dabbed dry with a soft cosmetic tie. This may be gently pressed into the front ear canal and absorbs moisture and earwax well.

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Avoid injuries:What helps with itchy ears?

The expert also does not think much of ear candles. These would only warm up the wax, but would not be able to remove it reliably and thoroughly. In addition, Deeg sees the small ash particles that can get into the ear canal and onto the eardrum when burning the ear candle as unnecessary pollution.

– Own research

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