New Wave Nightingale

Stop! The last place that Qtip should be is in your ear

New Wave Nightingale(May 18, 2024) — Did you hear that? No? Perhaps that’s due to the industrious nature of your ceruminous glands – working overtime to ensure you are well stocked with nature’s own votive, more commonly referred to as earwax.

Those adorable Elvin sound receivers adorning the sides of our heads function as de facto protective candle shops. The ceruminous glands are specialized sweat glands found in the outer portion of the external auditory canal. They are small, coiled tubes comprised of two layers of cells.

The cells of the inner layer produce a secretion that drains into the guard hairs of the external canal and begins the production of cerumen. From the Latin Cera (or wax), cerumen is a combination of ceruminous secretion, sebum (skin oil) and epidermal cells.

Vital protective functions

Although it may sound (and feel) a bit yucky, cerumen performs a range of vital protective functions. It maintains the moisture and pliability of the eardrum as well as basic housekeeping in and around the external auditory canal. This includes the trapping and neutralizing of foreign bodies such as dust, bacteria, fungi and excess water. The sticky ceruminous coating of the guard hairs of the ear allows them to effectively perform their protective function.

An overabundance of cerumen, while great for keeping the bad stuff out, can also keep out the good, such as cool music and juicy conversation. This can drive us to risky and inadvisable behavior. The proper way to clean the ears is with a damp cloth along the outside – only.

The normal movement of the jaw propels excess cerumen through the canal toward the opening, where it dries and is effortlessly expelled on an ongoing basis. If excess cerumen becomes a nuisance or an impediment to hearing, the safest and most effective solution is to see a medical professional with an otoscope and appropriate training.

Wax softening products such as Debrox are, for the most part, safe if not contraindicated and used correctly and sparingly. They may provide a small measure of relief. Never insert a cotton swab or any other object into the ear under any circumstances. It is ineffective at best and permanently damaging at worst.

The ear is quite capable of cleaning itself. Trying to help it do so is not a DIY project. Perhaps some among you may remember the wisdom of a bygone era: Don’t put anything in your ear that is smaller than your elbow. This is as good advice now as it was then.

Please send comments and question to Nathalie Montijo at

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Nathalie Montijo
Nathalie Montijo

Nathalie Raven Archangel-Montijo holds a rather interesting array of degrees and certifications, including master’s in nursing and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). She has post-master certification as an adult geriatric primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) and a license to practice acupuncture in California (L.Ac). To round all that out, she is certified in infection prevention and control (CIC) and as an advanced certified Hospice and palliative care nurse (ACHPN).

She also performs in the outlaw country band, Nineteen Hand Horse.