North Americans spend more than $60 million annually on at-home ear-cleaning products, and about 12 million Americans go one more step to have their ear wax professionally removed by a doctor every year (and even more visit spas and use other unconventional methods) to get the job done, despite our ear canals being, at least theoretically, self-cleaning parts of the body [source: Beck].
Ear wax, which is also known as cerumen, is an oily, waxy substance produced by the glands inside your ear canal. It's a way for the ear to protect itself. Wax stops intruders from getting into your ear, including dust and bugs (it's been known to happen), among other debris. Ear wax also helps lubricate the ear, protect your ear canal from irritation, and has antibacterial properties.