Science Questions

What causes build up of earwax?

Sun, 26th Feb 2012

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Question

Mr Ford, Ipswich asked:

Why do some people get so much build-up of ear wax that they can't actually hear?

Answer

Earwax production and characteristics vary genetically.  People who come from East Asia tend to have very dry earwax whereas people who come from the west tend to have genes that cause them to have wetter earwax.  You tend to increase the production of earwax if itís got a job to do.  So if you're in a very dusty, dirty environment or if you have infections locally, you make more earwax in order to soak up the dirt and prevent the bugs from creating more of an ingress.  The downside is that the cerumen, the thick wax, can build up and block your ear canal. You sometimes have to soften it with something like olive oil so you can get it out easily.

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