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Is Excessive Ear Wax Caused By Sleep Apnea?

Posted May 12 2009 5:53pm

I read recently read in Your Jaws, Your life (by Dr. David C. Page ) that ear wax production was related to obstructive sleep apnea. I never thought about it in this way, since ear wax is thought to be a normal process. But in retrospect, I have many people with sleep-breathing problems that make extremely excessive ear wax. Some even have to come in once monthly to take out a plug the size of the end of your pinky. 
 
Here’s one possible explanation: Any degree of sleep-breathing problems can cause an imbalance in your involuntary nervous system. This is what controls your blood pressure, heart rate, sleep, sweating, temperature regulation, digestion, and other important body functions. It’s divided into the sympathetic (stress, fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic (relaxation response) nervous systems. I’ve described situations where due to relatively too much of a stress response, you can have cold hands or feet, or chronic diarrhea. 
 
Sweating is activated by the sympathetic nervous system. Ear wax is a modified form of sweat, since the glands have similar origins. Think of it as a dried form of sweat. If for whatever reason, if your sympathetic nervous system is over-activated, then you can "sweat" excessively in certain parts of your body, and this can happen on one or both sides. 
 
This would make for an interesting study: Can CPAP for OSA lessen ear wax production?

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