Ear Wax And Its Impact On Parts Of The Ear
If you're struggling with muffled hearing or discomfort in your ear and think ear wax may be the problem, it's natural to wonder exactly what it is and what it's for. Ear wax (or cerumen) is a natural waxy material that's produced by the sebaceous glands in the outer part of the ear canal. But what is ear wax for?
What Is Ear Wax For?
Ear wax is a mixture of oil, fat, and protein that cleans, lubricates, and protects the lining of the ear by trapping dirt and repelling water. Ear wax is also slightly acidic and has both antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Ear wax is good for you; however, when it becomes excessive, it needs to be removed as it could cause problems, such as discomfort, hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, and even chronic cough. Find out more about common ear symptoms.
Wax can become impacted in the ear, causing discomfort and muffling sound, sometimes due to anatomic deformities, such as an increased number of hairs in the ear canal, or due to physical barriers, such as cotton buds or hearing aids. But without some ear wax, the skin inside your ear would become dry, cracked, infected or waterlogged and sore.
It's therefore important to remember that due to its protective properties, a thin layer of ear wax should be left on the lining of the ear canal following procedures such as ear microsuction or syringing, as it's extremely beneficial - the aim of wax removal treatments is not to completely eliminate ear wax. If you're wondering 'what is ear wax microsuction?', find out more below.
Parts Of The Ear
The ear is the organ of hearing and balance, and physiology of the ear is functionally divided into three parts:
- The outer part of the ear, consisting of the auricle or pinna, and the external auditory canal
- The middle ear, which is composed of the tympanic membrane, forming the border between the outer and middle ear, and three small bones or ossicles: the malleus, incus and stapes
- The inner ear, which contains different sensory cells that are essential for the detection of sound and vibration, and are responsible for our hearing (cochlea) and balance (vestibular system)
Parts of the Ear: The Pinna (Auricle)
The outside part of the ear is also known as the pinna or auricle. The skin of the pinna contains a number of sebaceous (oil) glands and fine hairs, and continues within the lining of the external auditory canal.
The pinna or auricle has several ridges and depressions, which contribute towards its function to collect and direct the sounds towards the ear canal, helping with sound localisation.
Parts of the Ear: External Auditory Canal/Tube
The external auditory canal (sometimes referred to as a tube) is the part of the ear connecting the outer and middle ear.
The outer third of the external auditory canal is more bony, and is lined with thin, sensitive, hairless skin that doesn't contain any glands, so ear wax is not produced here.