11

votes

Ear wax. Should it stay or should it go?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 11, 2010 at 3:35 PM

I clean my ears out every other day or so after showering. After having questioned so much conventional wisdom after beginning the paleo-lifestyle, I am curious if there might be a good evolutionary reason to keep at least a bit of wax in the ears even in modern times.. What are your thoughts?

UPDATE For the last 2.5 months I have not cleaned out my ears. The first couple weeks they seemed to be very waxy and then that seemed to die down.

I noticed that when I go swimming my ears are in perfect condition. I think that is the key to keeping them clean. I don't think using a cloth is necessary at all. It may be possible to just submerge your head in water and shake it around a bit for the same effect.

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on September 19, 2013
at 01:15 AM

Very useful link - many thanks!

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 24, 2011
at 10:39 AM

I would think anything that can apply suction to your eardrum could pull bacteria into your eustation tubes where it would fester for a bit and then cause a sore throat.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 24, 2011
at 10:33 AM

I think you would have to differentiate between the two kinds of ear infections here. Dairy allergies cause middle/inner ear infections (inside the ear drum). Overly groomed ears can cause outer ear infections or "swimmer's ear".

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 10, 2010
at 01:18 AM

Uh oh, maybe spinach and grassfed beef with be the next things labeled as 'drugs.'

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on May 28, 2010
at 02:32 AM

Omw to sauna! ..

A1a4882d31414600b2cab395a5b17161

(699)

on April 14, 2010
at 11:16 PM

Great link, thanks!

13c5a9f1678d75b93f269cdcf69f14d5

(2339)

on April 13, 2010
at 01:25 PM

carbophiles - what a great term. I think this could be the case, because my ear wax used to be excessive. One of the many, small and somewhat strange benefits of this new way of eating.

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on April 12, 2010
at 08:16 PM

didn't cavemen fashion ear mufflers out of animal skin? ;)

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on April 12, 2010
at 08:14 PM

Patrik, I NEVER cleaned my children's ears and my daughter had chronic ear infections when she was a toddler - the culprit? pasteurized dairy products, which of course increases mucous in the ear and nasal passages.

8e75344356f4a455185ee52da0b90bf2

on April 12, 2010
at 11:25 AM

Thanks for the info! Personally, I don't clean my own or my children's ears with anything but a washcloth if the wax becomes visible. THAT said, my husband and my middle son both seem to have a HUGE excess of wax.(these two are also terrible carbophiles - coincidence? I don't think so.) Since it will affect my son's hearing when this happens, I do clean inside his ears on occasion. My non-invasive method: Lie on your side and, with a bulb syringe, drop hydrogen peroxide into your ear. Gently massage around the base of the ear.Excess wax will loosen and bubble up so you can wipe it away.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on April 11, 2010
at 05:14 PM

This question, while a bit unsavory, is quite interesting. I know a pediatrician who says if parents were less vigilant about cleaning their toddlers' ears, their children would have fewer ear infections.

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7 Answers

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10
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 11, 2010
at 05:24 PM

Earwax has evolved along with the rest of the body, so it makes evolutionary sense that it offers us advantages. The functions of earwax are (1) to keep the ear canal moistened, lubricated and free of itching and irritation; (2) to prevent infection of the ear canal with harmful bacteria and fungi; and (3) to trap and remove insects and debris from the ear canal (as AnnaA has noted). Ref: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1879550/what_the_function_of_ear_wax.html

Ear wax flows from the area of the eardrum towards the external entrance of the ear canal. This is accomplished by delicate hair cells which line the surface of your ear canal. IMPORTANT: Do not insert a Q-tip or other object into your ear canal! This can damage the hair cells and lead to worsening earwax buildup in the future. Under normal circumstances, you should wait until the wax reaches the entrance of the ear canal, then clean it with a washcloth.

(4/12/2010 Edit, correction: The ear canal (outer ear) is lined with skin. The hairs are from hair follicles, not hair cells. The inner ear has hair cells. It is still important not to damage the skin of your ear canal and possibly push the wax further into the ear with objects such as Q-tips. Sorry for my initial error.)

Excess wax buildup may occlude the ear canal and interfere with hearing. Wax buildup may be removed by gentle flushing with warm water, or by using commercial wax-removal drops such as Debrox, or professionally by an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist).

If you get water trapped in your ear, it may make you more prone to an infection in your ear canal (otitis externa, or "swimmer's ear"). Excess water may be removed from the ear canal by gentle blow-drying, or with commercial alcohol-containing drops such as "Swim-Ear."

8e75344356f4a455185ee52da0b90bf2

on April 12, 2010
at 11:25 AM

Thanks for the info! Personally, I don't clean my own or my children's ears with anything but a washcloth if the wax becomes visible. THAT said, my husband and my middle son both seem to have a HUGE excess of wax.(these two are also terrible carbophiles - coincidence? I don't think so.) Since it will affect my son's hearing when this happens, I do clean inside his ears on occasion. My non-invasive method: Lie on your side and, with a bulb syringe, drop hydrogen peroxide into your ear. Gently massage around the base of the ear.Excess wax will loosen and bubble up so you can wipe it away.

13c5a9f1678d75b93f269cdcf69f14d5

(2339)

on April 13, 2010
at 01:25 PM

carbophiles - what a great term. I think this could be the case, because my ear wax used to be excessive. One of the many, small and somewhat strange benefits of this new way of eating.

2
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on April 11, 2010
at 06:45 PM

I wonder if excess ear wax is somehow connected to excess calories or insulin. I've never cleaned my ears, but in college when I ate a crappy diet I had a lot of buildup and had to have an ear wash done by my doctor. I haven't had a problem since going paleo though.

Either way, a good solution if your wax is making your uncomfortable is to go to the sauna. It get things flowing without potentially damaging poking in your ear.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on May 28, 2010
at 02:32 AM

Omw to sauna! ..

2
8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on April 11, 2010
at 05:47 PM

Here's an article from 2008. Since reading it, I clean my ears much less often. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26443394/

A1a4882d31414600b2cab395a5b17161

(699)

on April 14, 2010
at 11:16 PM

Great link, thanks!

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on September 19, 2013
at 01:15 AM

Very useful link - many thanks!

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 11, 2010
at 04:00 PM

Ear wax that builds up can cause both pain and loss of hearing and it needs to be flushed out when that happens.

A normal amount of wax doesn't cause any problems. Some people produce more ear wax than others and may need to occasionally clean the excess before it builds up to a problem level.

Probably ear wax is designed to gum up little bugs that might crawl in your ear when you are sleeping in your cave.

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on April 12, 2010
at 08:16 PM

didn't cavemen fashion ear mufflers out of animal skin? ;)

1
B3c0950cd33bf7689ca0b98e5f2b6cdc

(588)

on May 29, 2010
at 03:19 PM

Ear candling, while often beneficial doesn't really remove anything from the ear. Claims by some manufacturers put them on the radar of the FDA and hence the FDA is attempting to have ear candles labeled a "medical device" to drive them out of business.

If you are skeptical of ear candles, don't laugh at their fate - the FDA has let Nordic Naturals know that their fish oil is being targeted with classification as a "drug" because of the many clinical studies the company has proving the healthy effects of fish oil.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 10, 2010
at 01:18 AM

Uh oh, maybe spinach and grassfed beef with be the next things labeled as 'drugs.'

0
Aeb4080aa185501ee22328672200b2f3

on September 19, 2013
at 01:31 AM

The chewing action also assists ear wax to move out. Another reason to chew your food properly.

0
F82f7d4dafb6d0ffc4c2ee2a85420786

(484)

on May 28, 2010
at 02:02 AM

My husband and I had ear candling done in Asia (where they heat then suck it all out - gross) and got a sore throat/cold thing straight after. It's hard to say if it caused it, but I really felt like it contributed, because my ears felt all kind of, naked, afterwards.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 24, 2011
at 10:39 AM

I would think anything that can apply suction to your eardrum could pull bacteria into your eustation tubes where it would fester for a bit and then cause a sore throat.

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