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Cerumen (Ear Wax)


''The physiologic factors that control the sebaceous glands in the ear canal are not fully known. However, the function of the modified apocrine (ceruminous) sweat glands has been well established. Perry (1957) studied cerumen production by direct visualization of the skin of the distal portion of the external auditory canal of 150 subjects. He found that smooth muscle stimulants (pitocin), adrenergic drugs (epinephrine and norepinephrine), and the emotional states of anxiety, fear, and pain resulted in an increased production of apocrine sweat. In addition, rubbing or cleaning the canal wall resulted in a mechanical ''milking'' of the cerumenous glands. In some cases, vigorous chewing caused distortions of the ear canal that caused the same milking effect.''
- Journal of the American Academy of Audiology Volume 8, Number 6, December 199, p.392

We polled a group of parents of deaf/hoh children to see how they dealt with Cerumen in their children's ears. Here are some of their responses:

  • We go to the ENT and he uses a vacuum when her tubes are in and vinegar
    water rinse when the tubes are out.

  • of our biggest problems with both "hearing aid boys" (as
    my 7 year old refers to himself and his youngest brother). We've been
    given two ways to remove wax from our pediatrician.

    1. Use Colaice (an over-the-counter stool softener) in the ear for a few
    minutes several nights in a row to soften the wax and then use a Q-tip
    to gently remove the wax.

    2. Use Debrox drops in the ear. The drops will bubble up and
    aggressively remove the wax.

    We find the Debrox treatment much more effective, but I've tried it on
    myself, and it burns terribly, especially if there are any tiny
    abrasions in the ear canal.

    We've also had the ENT use the long scraping tool to remove wax,
    especially if they find wax when doing the exam just before a hearing
    test. Unfortunately, even a really experienced ENT has managed to nick
    the canal in both of our son's ears, and THAT'S painful.

    Not to be too gross, we were blown away to see what impacted wax
    actually looks like. When we saw it, we realized how much it would
    reduce available hearing.

  • When our son was just 11 months old he had the ear wax removed by an ENT
    consultant under general anaesthesia. Three different people (our GP, an
    audiologist and an ENT) said that's the only way to do it in such small
    children. Luckily, he hasn't had the need for it again. I can't tell you
    my disbelief at the time that such a simple procedure should require day
    surgery. I hope it's easier in older kids.

  • We just dealt with this for the first time a few months ago. Started
    with audiologist, who strongly recommended we have pediatrician clean
    out our son's ears (he was 4 1/2 at the time). Doc had nurse do it,
    of course (LOL). All she did was take a syringe, fill it with
    lukewarm water, and squirt it into his ears. She then had him tilt
    his head so that the water would come out on its own. She'd then wipe
    the ear with a clean washcloth. It took quite a while to do each ear,
    but stuff just came out eventually. Yuck. Let's just say she was very
    patient and there were M&M's involved.

    But since, they've had us squirt water in his ears in the same way
    during bath time. The wax has been under control since. It's not
    always an easy proposition, either. But since we do it periodically,
    I don't worry about doing both ears at one time, or even every day.
    That way, neither one of us gets too frustrated.

    We also use Q-Tips to clean the outside of the ear, when we see wax
    coming out, but never actually in the ear canal.

Selected Links

Audiology Online answers the question, "Is there any evidence that cerumen production is increased when using earmolds? Or, is it that earmolds block the ear from natural drainage so it just appears that there is more cerumen? Also, is there any difference between soft and hard shell earmolds regarding cerumen production?"


Ear Wax

Understanding Ear Wax

The Ear Wax FAQ

Wax Problems in a Hearing Aid User

The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care. Please consult your health care provider.

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