Decoded: Why some people have more earwax than others

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Earwax or cerumen, as it is known medically, is a brown, orange, or yellowish waxy substance found in the ears. According to Dr H K Susheen Dutt, Senior Consultant – ENT Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore, “It is a combination of dead skin cells and secretions of the glands of the external auditory canal (ear canal).”

As gross as it may appear, earwax is known to provide many benefits, too. It helps protect the skin of the human ear and traps dust and other small particles from reaching and damaging it.

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While we all produce earwax, have you ever wondered why some have it more than others? Turns out, it is genetically determined, Dr Dutt said. “Also, some ethnicities such as the white races produce more cerumen than the rest,” he added. According to WebMD, smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the wax our ears make naturally to get out of the canal. “This can lead to wax impactions. This is earwax buildup,” it read.

As wax production is not controlled by the individual, prevention may not apply either, the expert explained.

How to clean it?

While many use earbuds to clean earwax, Dr Dutt advised against doing as the “use of q-tips (earbuds ) may push the existing cerumen deeper into the ear and cause more block sensation in the ear. This is to be discouraged.”

Additionally, using sharp objects, including q-tips, in the ear may lead to injury, infection, bleeding, and perforation of the eardrum, he said.

Therefore, it is said that “the right way to clean earwax is by syringing or using a wax hook or suction clearance or a combination of the above based on the consistency of the wax as determined by a clinician / ENT specialist.”

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