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The Kid Should See This

Why do we have earwax?

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One of the most misunderstood aspects of earwax is that it’s often perceived as unclean or harmful when it serves an essential role in ear health. Earwax, also known as cerumen, acts as a natural lubricant and protective barrier for the ear canal. It traps dust, debris, and bacteria, preventing them from reaching deeper into the ear.

Removing earwax excessively can lead to irritation, infection, or impacted earwax. Or as this TED-Ed lesson summarizes, “It’s generally best not to mess with the ways of the wax.”

earwax lounging around

“Earwax accumulation can be uncomfortable and affect your hearing, and there are definitely times when intervention is needed. But there are safer ways to go about it. Over-the-counter eardrops help soften earwax so it can make its way out on its own. And health care providers have tried-and-true methods of gently clearing blockages.

“Otherwise, to prevent earwax buildup, doctors recommend gently cleaning the outside of the ear canal with a damp cloth and giving your ears a break from earplugs and earbuds when possible.”

Learn about the history and science of earwax, including its composition, purpose, and the potential risks of trying to remove it. Then Dig Deeper (into the topic, not your ears) to learn how the genetics of earwax have been used to track population migration.

dry vs wet earwax
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