Posted by HearStore on May 2nd 2017
Hearing Care Providers frequently meet patients who are having trouble hearing, but when they look in their ears they find the problem is just built up earwax. Excess earwax is one of the most common causes of partial hearing loss, and luckily the most treatable. Cerumen as earwax is called, causes hearing loss when it collects and blocks the ear canal or when use of cotton-tipped applicators has pushed it back against the eardrum.
Earwax isn’t really wax at all; it is a mixture of skin cells and oil in the ear canal. Its main job is to trap incoming dust, dirt and bacteria from entering the ear canal. It also acts as a temporary water repellant. One of the cool things about earwax is that our body is able to remove it on it’s own. A person who creates a normal amount of earwax should never have to have it removed because the motion of your jaw slowly moves the wax and debris down your ear canal until it reaches the outer ear and dries up and flakes off without you even noticing. However, when the body produces too much earwax or you have pushed the wax further into your ear with something like a Q-tip the ear canal can become blocked, this is known as impaction.
Besides some degree of hearing loss, other symptoms of built up earwax include a feeling of fullness, itching, vertigo, pain and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). A quick visit to your physician to get your ears cleaned will get you hearing again. Your physician will use an endoscope to see directly into your ear, then use a tool to gently remove the wax.
You may find many home remedies on the internet or removal kits available in your local drug store, but the safest method (and the only one we recommend) for getting rid of your earwax is visiting your physician. When you attempt to remove the wax at home you risk perforating your eardrum or scraping your ear canal, causing serious damage.
Some doctors recommend placing a few drops of baby oil, or commercial ear drops into your ear before bed each night in order to loosen the wax. Once the wax is loose it may work its way out naturally or make it easier for the doctor to remove it. Even though using cotton tipped applicators like Q-tips is a fairly common practice, it is very highly discouraged by ear doctors because they often do more harm than good.
Most people will never have to visit a doctor to have their ears cleaned. The exception is those people who produce excess earwax and some hearing aid wearers. Certain styles of hearing aids that sit inside the ear canal stop earwax’s natural progression out of the ear, which is why you may notice built up earwax on your hearing device. It is important to keep your hearing device clean of wax and visit your doctor to see if you need your ears cleaned too.