What causes ear wax build up?1
Earwax, or cerumen, is made up from an oily mixture of skin, sebum, and excretions from the ceruminous glands, as well as some skin proteins and fatty acids. It is a naturally occurring substance that cleans, protects and lubricates the external ear canal.
Our ears tend to be 'self-cleaning' so when ear wax has done its job, it dries up and drops out naturally, helped along by jaw movements when eating and talking.
Wax accumulation happens when self-cleaning is disrupted or excessive wax is produced e.g., impacted by cotton swabs or fingers, presence of hearing aids or ear plugs or headphones.
Who may be more prone to ear wax?
Some people are more prone to an excessive production or accumulation of ear wax, such as:1, 2
- Elderly people, as ear wax becomes drier with age
- People with narrow ear canals
- People with hairy ear canals
- Those who wear hearing aids or regularly use earphones or ear plugs, as this inhibits old wax from falling out
- People who insert fingers or objects like cotton tips into ears to clean them, as this often pushes wax further inwards, up against the ear drum
- People who work in dirty or dusty environments, as the ear tends to produce more wax to keep the nasty particles out.