Cerumen or earwax is a naturally occurring substance in our ears. Special glands found in the outer half of the skin lining the ear canal produce this yellowish brown, thick, or viscous substance. Genes determine the colour of the wax.
Primarily, earwax traps dust and other dirt particles to prevent them from reaching the eardrum. Eventually, the dust and dirt laden earwax will be transported slowly by the migration of the upper layer of the ear skin towards the outer opening of the canal. As the ‘older’ wax reaches the opening of the canal, it dries out and falls away.
Aside from trapping dust and dirt, earwax also provides protection to the ear by preventing infection and inflammation. Because of the acidic nature of the wax and powerful enzyme (lysozyme) it contains, it inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus in the ear.
Due to its oily nature, earwax also provides a waterproof layer for the canal skin, preventing water accumulation, penetration and skin maceration.
Under normal conditions, earwax is not supposed to cause any ear problems. However, there are some instances where wax will be troublesome. The most common condition is called wax impaction.
This normally occurs from attempts to remove wax using cotton buds or other implements. These objects cause the wax to be pushed into the deeper part of the ear or cause the wax to become tightly packed, preventing normal migration towards the outer part of the ear.
Other conditions that might predispose the child to earwax-related problems are:
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