Audiology For Patients Wellbeing & Fitness

What’s in Your Ears? Our Complete Ear Wax Guide

Written by Mr Vincent Howard for Doctify

Have you ever started rooting around in your ear only to discover a finger full of wax? If the answer is yes, this is the article for you! If the answer is no, well, frankly, I don’t believe you.

Here to tell us a little more about what exactly is going on inside your ears is Audiologist, Mr Vincent Howard.

So, tell us a little about ear wax…

“When a man is becoming dull of hearing, which happens most often after prolonged headaches, in the first place, the ear itself should be inspected, for there will be found either oil is poured in, or verdigris mixed with honey or leek juice or a little soda in honey wine.” a crust such as comes upon the surface of ulcerations, or concretions of wax. If a crust, hot oil is poured in, or verdigris mixed with honey or leek juice or a little soda in honey wine.

– Aulus Cornelius Celsus        

Sometimes I feel that ear wax removal hasn’t moved on much since Aulus Cornelius Celsus wrote these words in the early days of the first century AD.

Maybe the advent of microsuction has changed all that, and certainly as someone using microsuction rather than water syringing or leek juice, I feel that I have the chance to get much closer to the wonders of the ear wax world thanprevious generations of ear wax removal practitioners.

Every time I look inside someone’s ear for ear wax to remove, I am amazed by what I see.

The ‘Italian’ Ear

Firstly there is what I call the Italian Ear – the one where the ear’s owner (or their partner) has poured in half a gallon of olive oil, which has subsequently plastered the wax all over the wall of the ear canal. Healthy, I’m sure, but not necessarily as efficacious as its widespread application as a remedy would suggest.

The ‘Cotton Wool’ Ear

This is where medium-sized quantities of wax have inhabited the ear for long enough to wrap themselves in significant quantities of dead skin debris.

The ‘Rock Face’

When the ear canal has been hidden from the view of audiologists for decades, and a hammer and chisel would be more suited to your purpose than the end of a suction probe. You tap the wax and it sounds like coin on marble, before setting about your work like the true professional you are.

The ‘Gastropod’ Ear

In cases like this, you remove a piece of wax so long, elongated, and malleable that its emergence from the ear is not dissimilar from a snail, minus tentacles, poking its head out from its shell. I have never actually found a gastropod in someone’s ear, by the way, but I have found dipterae, lepidopterae and arachnids!

‘Reed’ Ear

And what about Reed Ear, where the skin that hasn’t yet detached itself from the wall of the ear canal is drawn to the end of the suction probe like a moth (of the order lepidoptera!) to a candle, and flaps about inside the probe acting like the reed of a woodwind instrument to create a high-pitched noise that is far from harmonious for the audiologist or the patient.

‘Phantom Wax’ Ear

And finally, there is Phantom Wax Ear, which is where the ‘blockage’ turns out to be hearing loss in denial, and, instead of that triumphant moment of the wax emerging and hearing being restored, we are faced instead with the anti-climax (for the patient, at least!) of a hearing test.

If you have never removed wax from someone’s ear, you simply do not know what you are missing! But beware, there’s more to it than meets the eye, so make sure that you get proper training before you embark upon your own journey through the Wonders of the Ear Wax World!



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