Ear wax (also called cerumen) is made up of secretions from the external ear canal, old skin cells, bacteria and dirt. The purpose of ear wax is to protect the surface of the ear canal with a waxy, water repellent coating. Ear wax is slightly acidic which helps reduce bacterial and fungal growth. Ear wax traps bacteria and dirt and is discarded to the outside of the ear.
Sebaceous glands produce thick, gooey secretions. This is what give ear wax a wax-like consistency.
Apocrine glands produce a thinner brownish fluid that gives ear wax its color (along with dirt, bacteria, and fungi).
Skin cells in the external ear canal (as well as everywhere else on the body) are constantly replaced from the inside of the skin to the outside. The older cells "flake off" or exfoliate and are mixed with the ear wax.
Bacteria live on the surface of the skin of the external ear canal. Common bacteria types in the external ear canal include Corynebacterium, Micrococcus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococci, and Streptococci.
Dirt and dust fly into the ear and stick to ear wax.
Last Updated (Monday, 13 July 2009 19:36)