Most everything about the human body is pretty efficient. OK, tonsils and appendixes seem a little superfluous, but even earwax has its reasons to be.
It actually plays a positive role by helping clean out the ear canal. Think of it as a scrubbing pad covered in pine tar that rolls up dirt and grime on its way out of the ear. Research has shown it also has inherent antibacterial and antifungal aspects. Basically, it’s a crucial part of the body’s anti-infection efforts.
In addition, earwax also serves as a bit of a shock absorber in the event of head trauma, protecting the more delicate parts of the inner ear from being jarred out of place or damaged. It also is a natural defense from waterborne contaminants, especially for anyone who swims in natural bodies of water.
That’s why getting obsessive about keeping ears “clean” by clearing out earwax is misplaced. Sure, if there’s a huge wad just waiting to take flight, getting rid of it is called for. But most earwax will dry out — then fall out — on its own.
What you don’t need to do — or want to do — is dig into your ears with a cotton swab (the good ‘ole Q-tip) to pry out the earwax. Not only is this unneeded, it interferes with the ear’s perfectly good self-cleaning mechanism.
And it can also inadvertently lead to one of the only negatives that can happen in the world of earwax, which is too much of it getting stuck in the ear canal and causing blockage. This not only interferes with hearing, it can actually increase the likelihood of infection. Occasionally earwax can do this on its own — and if severe enough medical help is recommended to remove it — but shoving earwax backward into the ear with a cotton swab is a good way to make it happen.
With regards to earwax, follow the old maxim of “leave well enough alone.”