3 Factors That Influence Cerumen Production

Cerumen or “earwax,” is a natural substance your body produces to protect your ear canal. While it may seem like something you have spent most of your life trying to remove, it actually serves a purpose in cleaning the ears and is an important part of your hearing system.

What is Cerumen?

Cerumen is a waxy substance (hence the colloquial name “earwax”) that is brown orange, red, yellow or gray in color. It is comprised of dead skin cells, hair and secretions from the ceruminous and sebaceous glands found in the outer ear canals.

Cerumen aids in cleaning and lubrication and helps protect the ear canal against things like bacteria and water.

Two types of cerumen are found in the ears. The first, the wet type, is the dominant one, whereas the dry type is gray and flaky. A person’s genetic makeup determines whether one has the wet or dry type of cerumen in their ears.

Three Factors That Influence Cerumen Production

Some people have higher than average cerumen production. The thing is, there can be any number of reasons why those individuals experience cerumen overproduction.

However, three main factors can influence higher than average cerumen production. They are:

  1. Frequent or incorrect cleaning
  2. Exposure to environmental debris and irritants
  3. Excessive moisture in the ears

These are typically the most common causes of high levels of cerumen in the ear canals. The following explains each factor in greater detail:

1. Frequent or Incorrect Cleaning

Some people believe that having visible cerumen in their ear canals means their ears are “dirty” and that they require constant cleaning with cotton swabs or other objects. The truth is, this frequent cleaning will likely do more harm than good.

A significant disadvantage of regular ear cleaning is that foreign objects like cotton swabs can cause micro abrasions and damage the ear canal. Additionally, cotton swabs cause a risk for damaging the eardrum and even pushing the impaction further into the canal.

Instead, just gently rinse out your ears whenever you shower, as water helps pull any earwax that is ready to fall out naturally.

2. Exposure to Environmental Debris and Irritants

Another common reason you could be experiencing an excessive build-up of cerumen is due to environmental factors. For example, high levels of pollen outdoors can wreak havoc on the ear’s sebaceous glands as well as one’s sinuses.

Other airborne irritants like pet dander, dust and mold spores can also cause overproduction of cerumen.

Anyone that believes they get exposed to such environmental factors or irritants regularly can take steps to diminish cerumen overproduction, such as avoiding going outdoors during high pollen seasons or wearing ear protection when outside.

3. Excessive Moisture in The Ears

One thing that cerumen does is protect the ears against a build-up of moisture. If your ears regularly have excessive moisture inside them from activities like daily workout routines or frequent swimming, it will trigger a response by producing more cerumen to protect themselves.

If you feel this applies to you, it’s worth keeping a mental note of the activities you do to narrow down the likely causes of cerumen overproduction in your ears.

Other Causes of Excess Cerumen Production

Of course, those aren’t the only possible reasons your ears could be producing too much earwax. Another reason could be down to the type of headphones, ear buds or headsets you use each day at home or in work.

For example, if you wear in-the-ear (ITE) or in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids, these can cause a build-up of wax because of their location and blocking the canals. This means you want to ensure that you are properly cleaning your hearing aids daily to not introduce an irritant that would stimulate cerumen production.

Your audiologist will always determine which style works well for you and one of the considerations they will make is whether your lifestyle might cause a moisture build-up in your ears. Additionally, your audiologist can provide ear cleaning any time an impaction occurs that becomes problematic, providing you with insight that will help you avoid further issues in the future.

Taking care with your daily cleaning routines and using the correct hearing aids for your needs will ensure you don’t experience excessive cerumen production.

Would you like to learn more about how cerumen production is impacting your ears and hearing? Schedule an appointment with Audiology & Hearing Aid Solutions by calling us today at (973) 721-6520.