Dr Uche Okonkwo of the Department of Orthorhinolaryngology, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), on Thursday warned that habitual cleaning of ears could leave them vulnerable to infections.
Okonkwo told newsmen in Ilorin that cleaning the ear by self meant the removal of ear wax from one’s own ears.
She said that this was a common habit with most people, which they had perpetrated for decades based on misconception concerning ear health and hygiene.
“People erroneously regard regular ear cleaning as an essential part of daily grooming, akin to teeth brushing and bathing.
“However, ear wax serves as a natural cleanser as it moves out of the ear. Tests have shown that it has antibacterial and antifungal properties,’’ she said.
The expert said that the canal in the ear had developed capacity to deal with excess wax and could push the wax toward the outer rim canal, assisted by jaw movement.
According to her, this makes the wax easily removed by mundane daily activities such as regular bath or aided by gravity when lying with the ear facing downwards.
She warned that habitual cleaning of the ears could cause the constituents and benefits of wax to be lost, with potential severe complications.
“Unfortunately, there is general lack of public awareness regarding self removal of ear wax referred to as ear dirt even amongst health care professionals,’’ Okonkwo said.
She explained that the ear consisted of three parts: the outer, middle and inner ears, adding that the specialised glands within the skin usually secrete Cerumen; the major constituent of ear wax.
According to her, cerumen is a very important secretion, containing immunoglobins, lysosomes and glycoproteins.
“This makes it bacteriocidal and enables the ear to have an overall ability to maintain host defence.
“The acidic environment cerumen creates is unfavourable for the growth of pathogenic microbes.
“Also, the sticky consistency traps dust, debris and foreign bodies which along with other ear secretions and desquamated skin constitute what is generally known as ear wax,’’ Okonkwo said.