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What is earwax?

What makes earwax? What is it exactly? Why do we have it?

5147 day(s) ago

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Earwax is known scientifically as cerumen. Cerumen is naturally produced by the body in the outer half of the ear canal. It is made by a mixture of two substances from two different glands. Sebaceous glands create sebum, which is the name of the oil produced near the hair follicles in the skin. Mixed with the sebum are secretions from apocrine glands. Apocrine glands are a type of sweat gland. Apocrine glands are located in the ears, in the genital region, the armpits, and near the belly button. These are the sweat glands that are responsible for producing body odor. The secretions from the apocrine glands and sebaceous glands mixes with dead skin particles to complete the earwax. In analysis, earwax is found to be composed of 60% keratin, 20% fatty acids and alcohol, and 9% cholesterol. The consistency of earwax depends largely on the fat content. More liquid earwax can have a fat content of up to 50%, compared to the usual 20%. Studies have also found that people produce more earwax in times of anxiety or stress.

Earwax is an important component in the cleaning of the ear. Particles from behind the ear drum migrate outward into the ear canal where it gets stuck in the earwax. The earwax itself moves ever-outward, carrying the dirt particles with it. As the earwax gets dirty, it becomes dislodged by movement of the jaw. In addition to cleaning, earwax also provides moisture and lubrication for the skin of the ears, keeping them from getting chapped.

For the most part, the body needs earwax to work properly, but, in some cases, earwax can build up. Doctors recommend earwax to be cleaned with a liquid solution that is dropped into the ear. Swabs are not recommended because they can push the earwax further into the canal.

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