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Got Earwax Buildup

Maybe you need an ear curette.

To every ear a little wax must build. The ear has outer, middle, and inner sections. The ear canal, also known as the auditory canal, is a pathway that runs from the outer ear to the eardrum, or the middle ear. The ear canal transports sound from the outer ear to the eardrum, which is in the middle ear.

Your ear canal is lined with hair follicles and is exposed to the environment. The ear canal also has specialized glands that produce a wax, called cerumen, which most often make its way to the opening of your ear. 

Many patients regard earwax as a negative sign, but earwax has its purpose.  It can prevent insects, dust, bacteria, germs, small objects and other debris from entering and damaging the middle ear. Earwax also repels water, protecting the delicate skin of the ear canal and eardrum from damage.

Usually, earwax will fall out or can be removed but there are times when wax can build up extra wax may harden in the ear canal and cause an impaction, blocking the ear canal.

If wax buildup causes a blockage in your ear canal, you may want to visit an audiologist.  An audiologist may use an otoscopy to discover where the earwax has accumulated. 

Once an audiologist has identified where the buildup is, they may remove the wax one of three ways: water pressure, suction, or curettes. An ear curette is a long, skinny instrument, made of either flexible plastic or stainless steel, with a small scoop on the tips that can fit inside the ear canal. Curettes can gently scoop ear wax out of the ear and is handy when ears are especially compacted with ear wax.

You may want to try to remove the wax yourself, but when you try to clean the ear, you may instead push wax deeper and block the ear canal.  You can purchase plastic, disposable curettes over the counter through vendors like Amazon, Walmart or Target. However, our ears are sensitive and you may want to schedule an appointment with a hearing health professional to have your earwax buildup removed with a curette.

When thinking about a thin object going into one’s ear, many people may become a little scared, even if it’s a trained doctor putting the object inside of their ear. However, doctors are trained to use this device and the last they want to do is damage your ear or hurt you. A curette is always used with the care in the doctor’s hands. Care is always taken when using the curette to scoop the wax from your ear canal. This is to avoid any friction with the curette and your sensitive canal walls and generally ear wax removal is performed with an otoscopy.

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