‘What is Ear wax? Why do we have it? And how should I clean my ears?’

For this reader question we asked Doctor of Audiology, Teresa Burns, from Teresa Burns Hearing Ltd, who isn’t at all squeamish about cerumen (ear wax).

“Ear wax is normal. Wax is the way the ear cleans and protects itself”, says Teresa.

She notes that some people seem to produce more wax than others and that ear wax can get in the way if too much builds up or if a person wears hearing aids.

Teresa says, “Pushing anything in to your ear – cotton buds, hearing aids, or earplugs can push the wax back in the ear and build up a blockage. That’s when it can cause a problem.”

Teresa recommends letting the wax come out naturally, as it will usually migrate out of the ear over time. Or if the ear is plugged, having the wax professionally removed. Impacted ear wax can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, itchiness and even severe pain.

“I recommend seeing an Ear Nurse, Audiologist or Doctor who uses a microscope and micro-suction removal technique. Some offices use a flushing technique with water but I don’t recommend this as it can be uncomfortable; and in some cases, if you have an eardrum perforation or medical condition, can be dangerous”, says Teresa.

Ear wax is made up of old skin, natural skin oils and sometimes dust and debris. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties too. Teresa warns not to remove it yourself. And she cautions against using ear candles too.

“It’s never a good idea to set fire to something and put it on your head,” Teresa says, looking serious.


To contact Teresa Burns Hearing,
call 09 475 9849, or visit teresaburnshearing.co.nz for more information.