Earwax acts as a natural barrier, preventing dust, dirt, and other small particles from reaching the deeper parts of your ear.

What Is Earwax? Understanding Its Role and Importance

by | Jun 13, 2024 | Earwax, Patient Resources

Earwax, or cerumen, is a substance that often goes unnoticed until it becomes a problem. However, understanding earwax and its role is crucial for maintaining healthy ears and optimal hearing.

We believe in educating our patients about every aspect of ear health, including earwax. In this article, we’ll explore what earwax is, its functions, and why professional earwax removal is sometimes necessary.

The Basics: What Is Earwax?

Earwax is a natural substance produced by glands in your ear canal. It consists of a mixture of shed skin cells, hair, and the secretions from the ceruminous and sebaceous glands. Despite its somewhat unpleasant reputation, earwax plays a vital role in the health of your ears.

The Functions of Earwax

1. Protection:

Earwax acts as a barrier, preventing dust, dirt, and other small particles from reaching the deeper parts of your ears, where they could cause damage or infection. It also helps to keep harmful bacteria and fungi at bay.

2. Lubrication:

The presence of earwax keeps the skin of your ear canal moisturized. This lubrication is essential to prevent dryness and itching, which can lead to discomfort and irritation.

3. Cleaning:

One of the most interesting functions of earwax is its self-cleaning ability. As you move your jaw—whether you're talking or chewing—the earwax is gradually pushed from the inside of your ear to the outside, carrying with it any trapped debris. Once it reaches the outer ear, it typically dries up and falls out naturally.

Types of Earwax

There are two primary types of earwax: wet and dry. The type you have is largely determined by your genetics.

Wet Earwax:

This type is more common among individuals of African and European descent. It’s typically sticky and amber or brown in color.

Dry Earwax:

More common among people of East Asian descent, dry earwax is usually lighter in color and has a flakier texture.

When Earwax Becomes a Problem

While earwax usually takes care of itself, there are times when it can build up and cause issues. Symptoms of earwax buildup include:

A feeling of fullness in the ear

Muffled hearing


Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)

Dizziness or balance issues

When earwax becomes impacted, it can block the ear canal and interfere with hearing. In such cases, professional earwax removal is necessary.

Myths and Misconceptions About Earwax

Myth #1: "I have more earwax than normal."

Most people produce a standard amount of earwax. However, some may have more due to genetics, frequent use of earbuds, or other factors.

Myth #2: "I can clean my ears with cotton swabs."

Cotton swabs often push earwax farther into the ear canal, which can cause impaction and potential damage to the eardrum.

Myth #3: "Earwax will clear out on its own."

While earwax often works its way out naturally, impacted earwax may require professional removal.

Why Choose Professional Earwax Removal?

Removing earwax safely and effectively is crucial for maintaining good ear health. DIY methods can often push earwax farther into the ear canal, causing more harm than good.

Our team of hearing care experts is trained to remove earwax using safe and effective techniques, ensuring your ears are clean and healthy.

Schedule Your Earwax Removal Appointment

If you’re experiencing symptoms of earwax buildup or simply want to ensure your ears are clean and healthy, schedule an appointment with our team of hearing experts. We are dedicated to providing the highest level of care to help you maintain optimal hearing health.

For more information or to book an appointment, visit our contact page or request a callback today. Your hearing health is our priority.

Contact Information:

  • Office Address: 2748 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, United States
  • Phone: (510) 841-0681
  • Office Hours: Mon.–Fri.: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Schedule Your Earwax Removal Appointment

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Jonathan Lipschutz Audiologist, M.S., F-AAA, Owner

Jonathan is the owner of Berkeley Hearing Center. He received his bachelor of science in hearing and speech science and a master of science in audiology from Purdue University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and the California Academy of Audiology. Jonathan has over 20 years of audiology and hearing aid experience in both the non-profit and corporate sectors.

    Request a Callback

    Don’t want to wait? Call us at: 510-841-0681

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.