“Oh, my goodness, you could grow potatoes in those ears — wash them again!”
It’s an old saying, but one some parents are sure to admonish their children with at bath time, repeating what they heard as kids from their own parents once upon a time.
And many of those adults still adhere to the notion that the only clean ear is an ear devoid of wax.
But doctors say wax has nothing to do with poor hygiene and is merely the body’s way of shielding the delicate inner workings of the ear and protecting precious hearing.
“The first thing that everybody should recognize is it’s not dirt, it’s not something that has to be removed,” says Dr. Ronald Fenton, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
“A lot of people think that their personal hygiene is less than perfect if they don’t remove their wax,” he says. “That’s the first thing they’ve got to be disabused of.”
Ear wax, known medically as cerumen, is comprised of sloughed-off dead skin and a sticky substance secreted from glands in the outer third of the ear canal.