The wax in your ears is secreted by glands in the skin that lines the outer half of your ear canals. The wax and tiny hairs in these passages trap dust and other foreign particles that could damage deeper structures, such as your eardrum.
In most people, a small amount of earwax regularly makes its way to the opening of the ear, where it's washed away or falls out as new wax is secreted to replace it. If you secrete an excessive amount of wax or if earwax isn't cleared effectively, it may build up and block your ear canal.
Earwax blockages commonly occur when people try to clean their ears on their own by placing cotton swabs or other items in their ears. This often just pushes wax deeper into the ear, rather than removing it.
March 24, 2015
- Earwax and care. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care. Accessed Jan. 19, 2015.
- Dinces EA. Cerumen. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 14, 2015.
- Roland PS, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Cerumen impaction. Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. 2008;139:S1.
- Beatty CW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 2, 2015.
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