January 6, 2017

WAX ON, WAX ON:

If you make one health resolution this year, it should be to stop cleaning your ears (Katherine Ellen Foley, January 03, 2017, Quartz)


According to the new guidelines, published as a supplement in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, impacted earwax affects around 12 million adults per year in the US, and costing $46.8 million (paywall) in 2012. The best way to prevent it, according to an analysis of the latest research? Don't clean your ears to begin with.

"People to want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness," Seth Schwartz, a Washington state-based otolaryngologist who chaired the review, said in a statement.

But earwax, or cerumen as it's known in the scientific community, helps us stay clean. It's a mix of oil from glands in the outer ear canal (the part you can touch with your finger), hair, and dead skin cells. Admittedly, all of these sound like substances you wouldn't want anywhere on your body; however, the wax they form protects the ear from certain bacterial and fungal infections by acting like a sticky trap (not unlike mucus does for our lungs) before flushing them out with our jaw movement. As the BBC explains, way back before humans lived in insulated homes, earwax may have kept insects from crawling into our inner ears while we slept.

Posted by at January 6, 2017 7:57 AM

  

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