The ear anatomy
The adult human ear canal extends from the pinna to the eardrum and is about 35 mm in length and 5 to 10 mm in diameter. Sound is collected by the pinna (the visible part of the ear) and directed through the outer ear canal.
The middle ear is the portion of the ear between the eardrum, and the cochlea or inner ear. The sound makes the eardrum vibrate, which in turn causes a series of three tiny bones (the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup) in the middle ear to vibrate. The vibration is transferred to the snail-shaped cochlea in the inner ear; the cochlea is lined with sensitive hairs which trigger the generation of nerve signals that are sent to the brain.
The Eustachian Tube connects the middle ear space to the back of the nose and throat. The Eustachian Tube opens when you chew, yawn or swallow, equalising pressure in the middle ear, this is normal.
Dysfunction of the Eustachian Tube can lead to discomfort when flying.
Normal middle ear function relies on normal Eustachian tube function.
The Eustachian Tube remains closed; opening when we chew, yawn or swallow. This keeps the air pressure equal on both sides of the eardrum.
What is ear wax?
Wax is a natural accumulation of skin debris and the oil produced by the ceruminous glands in the external ear canal.
Earwax is helpful in normal amounts and serves to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as a temporary water repellent. It usually does not need to be removed, unless it is blocking the ear canals or producing hearing or earache symptoms.
Wax impaction is one of the commonest ear conditions in the community. It may present with difficulty in hearing (blocked ear) or even with pain or earache symptoms.
A build-up of wax is more likely to occur in people who insert implements into the ear (cotton buds, ear plugs, headphones), have narrow ear canals, children, hearing aid users, older adults and patients with learning difficulties. Ear wax removal is paramount to obtain good hearing levels, particularly,but not exclusively, in the older population.
The rate of production of ear wax and debris may be occupational or related to genetic factors as well as associated medical conditions (eczema, psoriasis), so the frequency of attendance for microsuction is entirely individual (usually between 3 and 12 months).