The canals of our ears are lined with hair follicles and glands that create an oily wax known as cerumen, or ear wax. The purpose of this wax is to coat the inner surface of the ear canal and protect it by collecting bacteria, dust and dirt, and miroorganisms. Another reason for ear wax is to guard the delicate skin of the ear canal when it is exposed to water; There is absolutely nothing abnormal or unhealthy about ear wax or the production of it.

In the majority of people, ear wax ultimately makes its way to the external sections of the ear, where it either falls out or is washed away when we clean our ears. However, the glands in certain people’s ears make more wax than normal. The surplus ear wax can build up in the ear canal and become hard, resulting in a blockage which keeps sound waves from getting to your eardrum. Consequently, the buildup of excess ear wax is, for people of every age, among the most common causes of hearing loss.

The signs of ear wax blockage include things like earaches, a sense that the ear is clogged up, a persistent ringing noise (tinnitus), and partial loss of hearing, which has a tendency to get gradually more serious. This is a form of conductive (as opposed to sensorineural) hearing loss, where the sound waves are impeded from getting to the eardrum. Thankfully, this cause of hearing loss is readily diagnosed and remedied.

For those who have suffered some or all of the signs and symptoms previously mentioned, come in to our clinic where our hearing specialists can easily and painlessly check to see whether the cause is a build up of ear wax. If this is the situation, there are hassle-free treatment options to get rid of the surplus ear wax that can be performed either at home, or in the clinic.

If a hearing specialist tells you that you have excessive ear wax which is obstructing your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it yourself at home. One important thing not to attempt, however, is to use a Q-tip or cotton swab, which tends to just compress the ear wax, not remove it. A much better home treatment is to add drops of mineral oil, glycerin, baby oil, or commercial ear drops to each ear, allow them to loosen the wax build-up, and then wash it out using water at body temperature. (Please note: using either hot or cold water to irrigate your ears can lead to feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) Pharmacies sell small bulb-like syringes which you can use to irrigate the ear after the wax has been loosened, facilitating the process. Two more things not to do are to 1) use a jet irrigator such as a WaterPik because its spray is simply too powerful and might cause damage to your eardrums, and 2) use any form of irrigation at home if you know for certain that you have a punctured eardrum.

If this does not seem to work to clear up the accumulation of ear wax, come visit us.