Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Just as saliva has a function in the mouth, ear wax also has a function in the ear canal: it cleans the ear canal and carries dirt out of it.

Many people like to stick cotton swabs into their ears. There is nothing wrong with that except that it sometimes causes an infection of the ear canal or causes ear wax to accumulate in a hard clump (a bit like when pirates used to pack gunpowder in cannons with a thick stick). So it is not a good idea to do this.

Diagnosis and treatment

Some people produce a significant amount of ear wax. The GP can remove it, usually through an ear rinse. If this proves difficult for some reason, we can suction out the ear wax (cerumen). If you have this problem, it may be useful to buy a little scooper from the pharmacist, so that you can remove the ear wax from time to time without creating clumps.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Ear, nose, and throat diseases

Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vermeiren Judith