Ear wax is a sticky material produced by sebaceous glands in the ear canal. These glands are situated at the hairy outer part of the ear canal. The earwax helps to lubricate, repel water and trap dirt from entering deep into the ear canal. It is also acidic in nature and has antibacterial properties
There are different types of ear wax- soft or hard, wet or dry. Ear wax do not usually cause any problems and will naturally fall out of the ear along with the debris. However sometimes it can get impacted and block the ear canal.
The most common cause of impacted ear wax is the habit of digging the ears with cotton bud, matchsticks or hairpins which push the ear wax deeper into the ear canal. Hearing aid or ear plug users would also tend to have similar problems. Other causes include narrow ear canal, hairy ear canal, certain skin conditions, hard wax and recurrent ear infections.
Symptoms of impacted ear wax are usually ear pain, ear block and tinnitus. Sometimes ear wax can present with ear infection and patients would have severe pain with ear discharge.
Treatment of impacted ear wax includes using ear drops to dissolve the wax. Patients need to apply a few drops into the affected ear canal, two to three times a day for up to 5 days. The softened ear wax will dislodge itself.
However if the above measures fail or there is severe pain or ear discharge; patients should seek medical attention. The ear wax can be removed by the doctor by other methods such as syringing, suction or using forceps.
STEPS ON HOW TO APPLY EAR DROPS
1. Patient should lie down on his/her side with the affected ear facing upwards
2. Then apply 5-10 drops into the ear canal as prescribed by your doctor, preferably someone else can help to do so. Pulling the pinna backwards can open up the ear canal.
3. Patient should maintain the position for 3-5 minutes
4. Some of the ear drops will flow out when patient sits up, just wipe the outer part of the ear with tissue.
5. Patient can then lie down again to apply to the opposite ear if needed.
6. Note: Good to warm up the ear drops by holding the bottle in the palm of your hands for few minutes before application.