Earwax is an oily substance produced by glands at the entrance to the ear canal, which it protects and lubricates. The amount of wax produced varies from person to person dependent on their lifestyle, diet, age, skin condition, anxiety levels and anatomy of the ear canal.
There are two distinct forms of earwax: ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. Most people in Britain have the ‘wet’ type of earwax. You are more likely to have excess wax if you have a high fat diet, if you are elderly or of an anxious disposition, if you have narrow ear canals, if your parents had excess wax problems, or if you try to remove wax using an object in the ear, such as a cotton bud.
As part of the ageing process the glands secrete less sebum (oily secretion), often causing wax to be drier and harder. This, together with the reduction in movement of the ear canal skin, means that older people are more likely to experience a wax blockage.