Ear wax - emergence, function and safe removal

Ear wax - emergence, function and safe removal

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How to remove unpleasant ear wax correctly and safely

Ear wax (cerumen) takes on important functions for keeping the body healthy. However, many people do not know what it is used for and where it is formed. There is always the question of how much of the yellow-brownish secretion can be removed effectively, but as gently as possible. This article is intended to give an insight into the function and composition of the secretion and to describe how the correct care with natural means can counteract ear plugging with ear wax. You will also learn what to do if an ear wax plug has formed and how you can distinguish healthy tearing from pathological ear discharge.


Ear wax, cerumen, cerumen, cerum graft, cerumen obturans, cerumen graft, cerumen graft, epidermal graft.

Ear wax is used for self-cleaning

Ear wax, referred to in the medical context as cerumen, is an endogenous secretion that is used for self-cleaning of the ears. Ear wax is yellowish-brown in color and has a bitter taste and is formed in specialized sebaceous glands in the external auditory canal. It is composed of sweat gland secretions, hairs, sebum, dander and contaminants.

Its task is to use small, flexible hairs to transport foreign bodies and impurities from the ear towards the pinna, where they are removed when washing, showering or bathing with water.

The composition of the bitter secretion, which is distributed on the mucous membranes of the ear canal, prevents the spread of invading viruses, fungi or bacteria. If this self-cleaning mechanism is impaired, an ear wax plug will form, which can lead to hearing impairment if it obstructs the ear canal.

Ear wax plug

If the ear wax is produced excessively or if it is prevented from being removed, an ear wax plug is formed which, if it has grown and hardened, can impair hearing. The migration of tearing is usually hampered by trying to clean the ears with cotton swabs or towel tips. The secretion is pushed back to the eardrum in the ear canal, which can lead not only to conductive hearing loss, dull feeling and ear noises, but also to injuries and inflammation (otitis externa) in the ear canal.

Sudden deafness often occurs after washing hair, showering or bathing, because the ear wax plug (medically “Cerumen obturans”) swells strongly when it comes into contact with water.

Ear wax removal at the otolaryngologist

Ear wax plugs are usually removed by an ENT doctor. First, the plug is sighted with the otoscope, a special ear microscope, to ensure the diagnosis. To protect the sensitive eardrum, mechanical removal of the ear wax plug can be carried out with a hook instrument or with an ear irrigator under microscopic control. If there are holes in the eardrum, flushing should be avoided.

During ear irrigation, lukewarm water is injected into the ear to rinse out the plug. In preparation, this is softened with lipoid-soluble agents (e.g. glycerin, paraffin oil or pharmaceutical preparations).

Gentle ear care

Regular cleaning at home, which can be supplemented by naturopathic treatments, is suitable for gentle ear care, which is intended to prevent excessive build-up of ear wax. If the eardrum is intact, an ear syringe, which is available in pharmacies, is used to rinse the ear with water once a week.

The head should be held to the side while the clean, lukewarm water is sprayed against the back wall of the auditory canal. If dizziness occurs temporarily after flushing, this may be due to the wrong water temperature, which leads to irritation in the balance organ. The water temperature should be about body temperature.

A special form of ear wax plug is the so-called epidermis plug. This can occur in chronic ear canal infections and contains dander, pus and ear wax. Danger: Because the epidermis plug can become rock hard, it should be removed by a specialist so as not to damage the ear canal and the ankle.

Loosen ear wax with natural home remedies

If too much ear wax is produced, the start of grafting can be prevented by natural softening agents and the use of ear candles. The softening and fat-dissolving power of high-quality oils (e.g. almond oil or walnut oil) can be combined with essential oils from medicinal plants, which prevent irritation and have an anti-inflammatory effect (e.g. chamomile, geranium, tea tree).

After the herbal oil has been in contact for several hours, the use of an ear candle can further intensify the effect of liquefaction of the ear wax, so that the self-cleaning mechanism is supported.

A wax bath with chamomile flowers, over which each ear is held for a few minutes, can also be safely removed from ear wax. This method has proven to be effective in getting firm ear wax in motion.

Discharge from the ears

Ear wax, which is formed in varying amounts for self-cleaning of the ears in every healthy person, is to be distinguished from ear discharge, as occurs in ear diseases. Repeated discharge of bad smell, for example, which is associated with hearing loss, suggests chronic otitis media or an ear tumor.

Purulent fluid in the ear with earache and swelling of the lymph nodes indicates an acute inflammatory event and should be treated by a specialist (ENT).

If the secretion shows amber or even bloody, severe ear infections or skull injuries are to be expected. In the event of a previous injury, an emergency doctor must be alerted immediately. (jvs)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • A. Lan Schumacher, Georg J. Ledderose, Peter Hahn (ed.), Karl-Joseph Paquet (ed.): Facts ENT, KVM - Der Medizinverlag, 1st edition, 2010
  • Thomas Lenarz, Hans-Georg Boenninghaus: ENT, Springer-Verlag, 14th edition 2012
  • Bradley W. Kesser: Ear canal obstruction, MSD Manual, (accessed 02.09.2019), MSD

Video: 538 - Whopper Ear Wax Removal (June 2022).


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