Ear wax also known as cerumen, is a waxy secretion that serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating and antibacterial properties for the ear canal. The skin lining the ear canal contains glands that produce cerumen. This yellowish-brown waxy substance protects the tissues and helps prevent infection by trapping micro-organisms, dirt and other irritants.
The ear wax usually, is a mix of cerumen, shed skin cells and dirt. It sometimes build up and cause symptoms such as: earache; fullness in the ear or a sensation the ear is plugged, partial hearing loss, which may be progressive; tinnitus, ringing, or noises in the ear; itching, odour, or discharge.
These conditions are harmless and can be easily treated. Ideally, the wax plug loosens and falls out by itself without the need for intervention but this is not always the case as some people are more likely to experience ear wax blockages than others due to tendencies to produce a lot of ear wax, narrow ear canals or hairy ear canals. Nevertheless, some other major causes are:
Overzealous cleaning with fingertips or cotton buds, which pushes wax further down the canals.
Working in dusty or dirty environments.
Inflammatory conditions of the skin or scalp.
So when a person experiences wax blockage, it is often because he has been probing the ear with such things as twisted napkin corners, cotton buds or fingertips. These only push the wax in deeper. However, there are ways to reduce the incidence of wax compactment such as the use of wax-softening drops or oil on ear waxes; non-probing of the ear canals with cotton buds or fingertips, as well as any objects that can fit into the ear; limiting the cleaning of the ear to the outer ear only and treating any associated inflammatory skin conditions.
In the cases of hardened wax, the use of an ear syringe to squirt warm water into the ear canal and float out the wax plug is employed, likewise the use of suction devices, forceps or a special hook but must be done only by a ear specialist.