About Us Physicians Diagnosis and Treatment Testing Audiology Testing Chicago Dizziness and Hearing Home Physical therapy
645 N Michigan
Suite 410
Chicago IL
USA 60611

Ear Wax

Ear wax is a normal product of the ear which protects the skin of the ear from water and infection. Ear wax is formed from wax glands in the external ear canal as well as other components such as dead skin, sweat, and oil. The primary component of ear wax is keratin (derived from dead skin). Ear wax thus differs slightly from cerumen which is the secretory product of the ceruminous glands in the external auditory canal (Hawke, 2002).

What can go wrong with ear wax?
1. Wax can plug up the ear, causing hearing to be reduced, and a full feeling in the ear. This is called an "impaction". About 2-6% of the population has an ear wax impaction at any time.

2. Wax can trap bacteria in the ear, leading to infection. This is usually painful or at least itchy.

3. Ear wax can obscure vision when the doctor looks in your ears, possibly hiding a dangerous process.

4. Ear wax is the most common cause of hearing aid malfunction.
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Ear wax removal

Practically, ear wax removal is sometimes needed to properly examine the ear, for hygiene, and to do proper testing. Although using cotton tipped applicators is a common practice, we recommend against using cotton tipped applicators. We also advise against using hair pins, and similar devices to clean the ear. This can be dangerous because you run the risk of breaking your ear drum ("perforation"), as well as jamming wax deeper inside.

Danger of using q-tip

At the clinic, we use a Welch Allyn commercial ear wax removal system for most situations, and we use tympanometry for safety. Appointments can be scheduled solely for ear wax removal through our front desk, reception@dizzy-doc.com. We recommend a periodic schedule - often every 6 months is appropriate.

For information about our Audiology Service, see this page.

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