This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Some people's ears produce wax like busy little bees. This can be a problem
even though earwax appears to serve
an important purpose.
Experts say it protects and cleans the ear. It traps dirt and other matter
and keep insects out. Doctors think it might also help protect against
infections. And the waxy oil keeps ears from getting too dry.
So earwax is good. It even has a medical name: cerumen. And there are two
kinds. Most people of European or African ancestry have the "wet" kind: thick
and sticky. East Asians commonly have "dry" earwax.
But you can have too much of a good thing.
The glands in the ear canal that produce the wax make too much in some
people. Earwax is normally expelled; it falls out of the ear or gets washed
away. But extra wax can harden and form a blockage that interferes with sound
waves and reduces hearing.
People can also cause a blockage when they try to clean out their ears -- but
only push the wax deeper inside. Earwax removal is sometimes necessary. But you
have to use a safe method or you could do a lot of damage.
Experts at N.I.H., the National Institutes of Health, suggest some ways to
treat excessive earwax yourself. They say the wax can be softened with mineral
oil, glycerin or ear drops. They say hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may
Another way to remove wax is known as irrigation. With the head upright, take
hold of the outer part of the ear. Gently pull upward to straighten the ear
canal. Use a syringe device to gently direct water against the wall of the ear
canal. Then turn the head to the side to let the water out.
The experts at N.I.H. say you may have to repeat this process a few times.
Use water that is body temperature. If the water is cooler or warmer, it could
make you feel dizzy. Never try irrigation if the eardrum is broken. It could
lead to infection and other problems.
After the earwax is gone, gently dry the ear. But if irrigation fails, the
best thing to do is to go to a health care provider for professional assistance.
You should never put a cotton swab or other object into the ear canal. But
you can use a swab or cloth to clean the outer part of the ear. The experts
agree with the old saying that you should never put anything smaller than your
elbow in your ear.
And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm