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Ear Wax Problems? Self Learn Session 5.

This article by a Registered Nurse of more than twenty years experience. It describes the common causes of ear wax problems and how to best manage them.

The Ear and the Ear Wax.

The ears, as we all know, are made up of three different parts: the outer ear, alos called the pinna is the part which you can see. We all also know that Prince Charles has large pinnae because they are associated with beauty of lack of it. The middle ear is which is distinctly separated from the outer ear by the eardrum (sometimes called the tympanic membrane). The middle ear contains tiny bones which amplify sound waves. The inner ear is where most sound waves are translated into electrical impulses and conducted to the brain. The hair and secretory glands in the ear canal cleans itself with a waxy secretion called cerumen, most of the time. Sometimes, the wax builds up because it is not able to get to the exterior, this may be caused by the use of hearing aids or head phones. The accumulation of wax, in the outer ear causes symptoms. Symptoms may include mild deafness and/or a sensation of fullness inside the ear. This condition is harmless and easily treated most of the time. However, sometimes, a wax plug forms and may need intervention to loosen and aid it’s extraction.

Outer ear

The outer ear is called the pinna, which is the part outside the body and the ear canal. This part of the ear conducts sound waves into the ear. The complex folds, which form the outer ear not only, act as an amplifier, but also as a shield, to stop objects, such as insects, entering the ear.

Middle ear

Sound waves travel through the middle ear. On the outside edge of the middle ear is the eardrum. On the inside edge there is another drum which transmits the sound message to the brain along nerves. Between the two drums, there are three tiny bones, which help amplify the sound.

Inner ear

The inner ear is a delicate part of the ear, with fluid filled ‘canals’. There is an inner ear on each side of the head, just next to the middle ear. They help the body with balance.

The snail like inner ear contains a maze of winding passages. This part of the ear deals with the reception and analysis of sound. It also keeps the body balanced.

Symptoms of ear wax problems.

  1. Some degree of deafness because the wax acts as an ear plug.
  2. Mild to sever earache
  3. A sensation of fullness inside the ear
  4. A constant ringing in the ear. This is often called “Tinnitus”.
  5. Loss of balance / dizziness may be present.

Natural Role of ear wax.

Ear was has a protective function in nature. The skin lining the outer ear canal contains glands which produce cerumen. The cerumen is a slighty yellowish – brown waxy substance. In nature, it’s function is to protect the underlying tissues. It also helps by containing infection by trapping micro-organisms, dirt and other irritants. Wax is constantly travelling towards the outer ear where it can drop out. Actions of the jaw, such as talking and chewing, help to ‘massage’ the wax out of the canal. The ear wax you see is a combination of cerumen, shed skin cells and dirt. The usage of ear phones and speakers interferes with the smooth movement to the exterior

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