Washing your face and body every day is important for your physical and mental health. But there is one body part that does better when not regularly cleaned and simply left to its own devices – the ears.
Do Ears Need to be Cleaned?
Your ears produce earwax. Known medically as cerumen, the wax is created by glands in the skin that lines the ear canal. Earwax has several important purposes, including:
- Protecting and moisturizing the ear canal, which prevents an itchy ear
- Fighting off infection through the use of special chemicals
- Acting as a shield to prevent dust, dirt and debris from entering the ear and harming the eardrum
Your body is constantly creating new earwax. As new wax is made, the older earwax is pushed out of the ear and falls out naturally. As Dr. Christopher Chang, an otolaryngologist in Warrenton, Virginia explains it, “generally speaking, the ear canal is self-cleaning.”
The act of opening and closing your mouth when chewing and talking can also help eliminate old ear wax as it moves your ear canal just enough to shake loose dried wax.
What if You Still Want to Clean Your Ears?
If you do want to clean your ears, do so when you are washing your hair in the shower, making sure to wipe down the outer folds of the ear and the earlobe. Don’t forget to get behind your ears as well.
Clinical associate professor and chief of general/sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health, Dr. Erich Voigt explains that this is the only part of the ear you should be cleaning. Never stick anything inside the ear. Instead of helping clear out excess wax, all you’re doing is pushing the earwax further into the ear; this can create an earwax blockage and cause temporary hearing loss. Some even tear or puncture their eardrum by using too much force. This is known as a perforated eardrum.
Dr. Voigt emphases, “I tell people to put their finger in their towel and kind of just mark the opening of the ear. This way you’ll remove any unsightly wax from debris and any material that would be visible, but you’re not going into the canal, which would disrupt the natural cleaning process.”
To learn more about cleaning your ears or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact Albany ENT & Allergy Services today.