Many seniors struggle with excessive earwax, impacting their hearing. While the term 'earwax' might be unfamiliar, most people are acquainted with the concept of earwax. Medically known as cerumen, earwax is produced by ceruminous glands in our ears, much like saliva glands in our mouths. Earwax serves as a protective agent, preventing insects from entering our ears and containing antimicrobial peptides that inhibit bacterial and fungal growth.
Effects of Excessive Earwax on Hearing: An abundance of earwax can hinder hearing by obstructing the external ear and ear canal, both responsible for collecting external sounds. When earwax blocks the ear canal, it interferes with the transmission of sound to the middle and inner ear, leading to hearing impairment. Cleaning excess earwax with an ear spoon is recommended, and if the earwax is stubborn, using a 0.5% sodium bicarbonate solution can soften it, making removal easier.
Self-Cleaning Mechanism and Challenges for Seniors: While the ear has a self-cleaning mechanism for most individuals, seniors may face challenges. Reports indicate that seniors have a 34% higher incidence of impacted earwax. Symptoms vary depending on the degree and location of the blockage, with complete blockage leading to issues like hearing loss, ear discomfort, and a feeling of fullness.
Common Symptoms of Earwax Impaction:
- Hearing Loss: Complete blockage can result in conductive hearing loss.
- Ear Fullness and Pain: Impacted earwax may cause pain and swelling in the ear canal.
- Other Issues: Ear ringing, dizziness, and further hearing issues may arise due to earwax pressure on the eardrum or skin.
Consequences of Earwax Impaction: Removing impacted earwax can restore hearing. However, if hearing loss persists after ruling out external and middle ear issues, it may be sensorineural hearing loss. Timely hearing aid fitting is recommended for sustained neural stimulation, preventing further deterioration.
Causes of Earwax Impaction in Seniors:
- Increased Ceruminous Gland Secretion: Aging causes an increase in ceruminous gland secretions.
- Muscle Relaxation and Jaw Weakness: Aging-related muscle laxity and weak jaw movements hinder natural earwax expulsion.
- Decreased Elasticity of Ear Cartilage: Age-related reduction in ear cartilage elasticity leads to dry skin, making earwax more concentrated and harder.
- Abnormal Hair Growth: Some seniors may experience excessive hair growth towards the eardrum, contributing to earwax impaction.
To Clean or Not to Clean: While earwax provides protection and antibacterial functions, neglecting regular cleaning can lead to accumulation, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Asians often have dry earwax, which usually self-expels. However, individuals with oily earwax need regular cleaning. For those with blocked ears, professional medical assistance is advised.
Tips for Safe Ear Cleaning: For those with oily earwax, cleaning every six months to a year is recommended. Caution is essential to avoid ear damage, maintaining a safe distance of 2.5 to 3.5 cm. Avoid using cotton swabs, fingers, or sharp objects, as these may push earwax deeper or cause harm.
Conclusion: While age-related hearing loss can occur, impacted earwax is a reversible factor affecting hearing. Seeking medical attention, removing earwax, and addressing any underlying issues contribute to improved hearing. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, avoiding high-fat foods, fried items, excessive noise, and harmful stimulants, ensuring good sleep, and preventing colds. Promoted by Chosgo – Explore Chosgo Hearing Aids for a range of hearing solutions, including the SmartU Rechargeable Hearing Aids and cic rechargeable hearing aids. Elevate your hearing experience with Chosgo!