Why do we have earwax?

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Offline thedoc

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Why do we have earwax?
« on: 28/02/2012 17:10:28 »
Dear Naked Scientists,

I'm in the U.S. and I LOVE LOVE your podcast. I listen to it while I work -- I'm a graphic designer, so when your program is on I've got sort of a left-brain/right-brain thing going on.

Anyway, I was wondering why we have earwax. What's it for and how is it made? What would happen if we didn't clean it out every once in awhile, besides possibly get very annoying?

Keep doing awesome science and bringing it to the public in interesting ways!

Cheers from California!

Kate in sunny Santa Clara

Asked by Kate Taylor

                                        Visit the webpage for the podcast in which this question is answered.


« Last Edit: 28/02/2012 17:10:28 by _system »



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Why do we have earwax?
« Reply #1 on: 05/12/2010 17:02:26 »
Ceruminous glands are a special skin gland found in the outer ear canal that secrete directly onto the skin or into hair follicles. Their secretory product combines with sebum of adjacent sebaceous glands to form cerumen, or ear wax. It is often suggested in text books that ear wax protects the very thin skin in the external auditory meatus, but it is not clear why a much smaller amount of cerumen would not be adequate. Recent studies have found that cerumen repels insects, and it contains lysozyme which breaks down bacterial cell walls.

So, if you ever wondered why your nice warm and moist ear canal is not constantly colonized by insects, ear wax and the fairly stiff hairs that point outwards are the reason. If you don't keep pushing ear wax back into your ear with blunt instruments, like a cotton tipped swab, for most people it will work its way out on its own.


Offline Don_1

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Why do we have earwax?
« Reply #2 on: 05/12/2010 18:09:43 »
cotton tipped swab

These must be one of the most damaging things you can use in your ear.
If brains were made of dynamite, I wouldn't have enough to blow my nose.