The human body naturally protects the ears by producing earwax, which acts as a safety barrier against bacteria, dirt and water. Normally, the process is self-regulating, but on some occasions the earwax can build up and cause problems, which affect hearing aid wearers, among others.
What Is the Function of Earwax?
Cerumen, which is the medical term for earwax, is a waxy substance secreted by the glands in our ear canal. It protects and lubricates the skin inside the ear and provides protection against infections, foreign bodies and water. The wax intercepts bacteria and other intrusive objects before they reach the eardrum and cause harm and slowly expels them with the help of jaw movement, which pushes the already formed earwax towards the outer ear.
Is Cleaning Your Ears Necessary?
The production of cerumen is a self-regulated and self-cleaning process. Our bodies discharge the excess earwax with the help of cell migration and jaw-moving actions, like chewing and speaking. The wax is pushed out of the ear canal, where it eventually dries up and flakes away, removing any debris and possible contaminants.
Our ears regulate the cleaning process autonomously, which means it is generally unnecessary to clean our ears manually, as earwax buildups do not occur under normal circumstances. Some people, however, do experience such problems, most commonly due to producing more earwax than others. In such cases, addressing the situation is advocated, because it can lead to further complications and serious consequences if ignored.
So, while earwax buildups occur occasionally, most of the time our ears function normally without our interference and no cleaning is needed. Medical professionals even discourage using ear hygiene utensils like cotton swabs, because their use can lead to adverse effects. Instead of removing the earwax, it is possible to unintentionally push the wax further in and cause a blockage, or even puncture the eardrum, so proceed with caution. If you want to clean the ear wax buildup in your ear than we highly recommend you to check out our list of the best removal tools for ear wax. We have just recently wrote a detailed review of some of the tools mostly used by doctors like the ear irrigator spray, wax rx ear washer, elephant ear washer bottle, or the endoscope ear -pick tool
Does Earwax Cause Damage to Hearing Aids?
While it may be superfluous and even harmful to clean your ear, wearing a hearing aid significantly changes the situation. Hearing aids usually stimulate the production of cerumen and impede the cleaning process at the same time, because they block the path and stop the earwax migration towards the exit. Without the earwax being removed naturally or manually, it will likely accumulate and form a blockage, which can lead to complications like ringing, hearing loss, infections or hearing aid defect.
Wearing a hearing aid generally means that your hearing is impaired and an earwax buildup will only make matters worse. Clogging the path, it can cause the sound waves to bounce around the aural canal and produce a troublesome feedback effect in the hearing aid, aside from the fact that it will reduce the effectiveness of the device by blocking sound. Earwax may also cause the fit of the hearing aid to worsen over time.
The most common problem an earwax buildup poses to hearing aids is clogging the receivers, the air ventilation tubes, which help with pressure equalization, and the microphones. Hearing aid manufacturers state that 7 out of 10 devices, returned for repair, have damage that occurred because of excess earwax. The acidity of the wax also gradually wears down the sensitive aid components, shortening the life span of the device.
Taking Care of Your Ears and Your Hearing Aids
Hearings aids are complex devices that are built to be durable and reliable, but they require regular cleaning and maintenance to achieve optimal performance and to prolong their life. Most devices have an earwax filter installed to catch the substance before it clogs any important parts of the device. Cleaning the filter and replacing it if necessary should be done as often as possible. Cleaning the hearing aid itself should be performed daily, otherwise you risk introducing dirt and earwax back into your ear.
Since wearing a hearing aid interferes with the natural process, cleaning your ears regularly is also important. Medical guidelines recommend an ear canal inspection with every visit to your physician and cleaning the ears every 3 to 6 months. Removing earwax can also be performed at home by yourself or with help from a family member, but consult with your doctor first to find the appropriate method and avoid possible complications.