The Outer Ear and Canal

The outer ear is the funnel-like part of the ear that is seen on the side of the head, including the ear canal (the hole which leads down to the eardrum).

The ear canal is shaped somewhat like an hourglass-narrowing part way down. The outer part of an ear canal of the skin has special glands that produce earwax. The wax is supposed to trap dust and sand particles to keep them from reaching the ear drum. Usually the wax accumulates a bit and then dries up and comes tumbling out of the ear, carrying sand and dust with it. Or it may slowly migrate to the outside where it is wiped off.

Should you clean your Ears?

Wax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but mainly in the outer part of the canal. So when a patient has wax blocked up against the eardrum, it is the case that because he has been probing his ear with such things as cotton-buds, bobby pins or twisted napkin corners. Such objects only serve as ramrods to push the wax in deeper. The skin of the ear canal and the eardrum is very thin and fragile and it may be easily injured.

Earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as temporary water repellent. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears.

The ear canals are self-cleansing, there is a slow and orderly migration of ear canal skin from the ear drum to the ear opening. Old earwax is constantly being transported from the ear canal to the ear opening where it usually dries, flakes, and falls out.

Under ideal circumstances, one should never have to clean the ear canals. However, we all know that this isn’t always so.

When wax has accumulated to a sufficient degree, it blocks the ear canal (and hearing), the physician may have to wash it out, vacuum it, or remove it with special instruments. Physician may sometimes prescribe ear drops, which are designed to soften the wax. If so, first wish to these ear drops may be purchased try over-the-counter such as Waxonil or Sollwax Ear drops. These are not as good as the prescription wax softeners but are effective for many patients. In the event that the non-prescription product is not satisfactory, a physician should be consulted.

You must know that you do not have a hole (perforation or puncture) in the eardrum. Putting the above eardrop products into the ear in the presence of an eardrum perforation may cause an infection. Certainly, washing water through such a hole would surely start up an infection. If you are uncertain whether you have a hole in your eardrum, consult the physician.

You may soften the wax for a few days by instilling several drops of an earwax softener into the ear canal twice a day. This can be purchased in the drugstore without a prescription. If the ear still feels blocked after using the ear drops, one should consult the physician, who can suction it out.