the VOA Special English Health Report.
people's ears produce wax like busy little bees. This can be a problem even
though earwax appears to serve an important purpose.
say it protects and cleans the ear. It traps dirt and other matter and keeps
insects out. Doctors think it might also help protect against infections. And
the waxy oil keeps ears from getting too dry.
earwax is good. It even has a medical name: cerumen. There are
two kinds. Most people of European or African ancestry have the "wet"
kind: thick and sticky. East Asians commonly have "dry" earwax.
can have too much of a good thing.
glands in the ear canal that produce the wax make too much in some people.
Earwax is normally expelled; it falls out of the ear or gets washed away. But
extra wax can harden and form a blockage that interferes with sound waves and
can also cause a blockage when they try to clean out their ears, but only push
the wax deeper inside. Earwax removal is sometimes necessary but you have to
use a safe method or you could do a lot of damage.
at the United States National Institutes of Health suggest some ways to treat
excessive earwax yourself. The experts at N.I.H. say the wax can be softened
with mineral oil, glycerin or ear drops.
They say hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may also help.
Another way to remove wax is known as irrigation. With
the head upright, take hold of the outer part of the ear. Gently pull upward to
straighten the ear canal. Use a syringe device to gently direct water against
the wall of the ear canal. Then turn the head to the side to let the water out.
The experts at N.I.H. say you may have to repeat this
process a few times. Use water that is body temperature. If the water is cooler
or warmer, it could make you feel dizzy. Never try irrigation if the eardrum is
broken. It could lead to infection and other problems.
After the earwax is gone, gently dry the ear. But if
irrigation fails, the best thing to do is to go to a health care provider for
You should never put a cotton swab or other object into
the ear canal. But you can use a swab or cloth to clean the outer part of the
ear. The experts agree with the old saying that you should never put anything
smaller than your elbow in your ear.
And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report, written
by Caty Weaver. For transcripts and MP3s of our reports, go to
voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.