Cerumen Impaction Protocol
Why does the body produce ear wax?
Ear wax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but in the outer part of the canal. So when a patient has wax blockage against the eardrum, it is often because he has been probing the ear with such things as cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins, or twisted napkin corners. These objects only push the wax in deeper.
What is the recommended method of ear cleaning?
Most cases of ear wax blockage respond to home treatments used to soften wax. Patients can try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops, such as Debrox® or Murine® Ear Drops in the ear. These remedies are not as strong as the prescription wax softeners but are effective for many patients. Rarely, people have allergic reactions to commercial preparations.
Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may also aid in the removal of wax. Rinsing the ear canal with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) results in oxygen bubbling off and water being left behind - wet, warm ear canals make good incubators for growth of bacteria. Flushing the ear canal with rubbing alcohol displaces the water and dries the canal skin. If alcohol causes severe pain, it suggests the presence of an eardrum perforation.
Why shouldn't cotton swabs be used to clean ear wax?
The outer ear is the funnel-like part of the ear that can be seen on the side of the head, plus 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 skin of the outer part of the canal has special glands that produce ear wax. This wax is supposed to trap dust and dirt particles to keep them from reaching the eardrum. Usually the wax accumulates a bit, dries out, and then comes tumbling out of the ear, carrying dirt and dust with it. Or it may slowly migrate to the outside where it can be wiped off.
What are the symptoms of wax buildup?
- Partial hearing loss, may be progressive
- Tinnitus, noises in the ear
- Fullness in the ear or a sensation the ear is plugged
Are ear candles an option for removing wax build up?
Even though ear candling is an ancient practice with the intent to treat a wide variety of ear maladies including cerumen impactions, ear infections, hearing loss, tinnitus, Meniere's disease, sinusitis, headaches, inhalant allergies, and many other conditions, the FDA has never cleared or approved marketing the products as a medical treatment.
Are ear candles approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration?
Based on the growing concern associated with the manufacture, marketing, and use of ear candles, the FDA has undertaken several successful regulatory actions, including product seizures and injunctions, since 1996. These actions were based, in part, upon violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that pose an imminent danger to health.
When should a doctor be consulted?
If there is a possibility of a hole (perforation or puncture) in the eardrum, consult a physician prior to trying any over-the-counter remedies. Putting eardrops or other products in the ear with the presence of an eardrum perforation may cause an infection. Certainly, washing water through such a hole could start an infection.