Earwax is a substance that the body produces naturally to clean, protect and “lubricate” the ears. Earwax forms in the outer two-thirds of the ear canal, not the third that leads to the eardrum.
Earwax acts as a self-cleaning agent to keep your ears healthy. Dirt, dust and other small particles stop in the earwax, which acts as a barrier, preventing them from advancing to the depths of the ear.
Chewing, jaw movement and the peeling of the skin from the ear canal all contribute to the removal of old wax from the inside to the outside of the outer ear, where it exfoliates and falls out on its own or is removed during bathing. This normal process of wax production and removal of old wax to the outside is continuous.
What does impacted earwax (wax plug) mean?
Sometimes the ear’s self-cleaning process doesn’t work very well, causing earwax deposits to build up, which can partially or completely block the ear canal. Earwax (plugs) can cause symptoms such as hearing loss, itching or earaches. You may experience these symptoms both when the ear canal is completely blocked and when it is partially blocked. Earwax complicates the professional’s consultation.
What are the symptoms of an earwax plug?
- Ear pain
- Sensation of pressure
- Whistling sound (tinitus)
- Hearing loss
- Ear drainage
- Bad smell
You should seek advice if you have symptoms and are unsure whether they are due to wax build-up. You may have another ear problem that needs medical attention.
Who is most likely to suffer from earwax?
It can happen to anyone, but it is more common in the following categories:
- older people
- people who use headphones or hearing aids
How to treat earwax blockage?
There are several ways. Some treatments can be done at home, but if you have an ear problem, any treatment done at home could be dangerous.
You should consult a professional to help you choose the right treatment, depending on the problem you have.
How is earwax diagnosed?
Physical examination and medical history are the main methods of diagnosis. The professional will examine the ear canal with an instrument called an otoscope and remove the affected wax if deemed necessary.
The procedure consists of cleaning the earwax with hot water.
Wax softening agents (cerumenolytics) : these are drops that soften or break up the wax, helping to remove it. These solutions can be used on their own or in combination with washing or mechanical removal.
Mechanical removal using special tools : this can only be done by a professional.
What to do:
- Earwax is normal. Do not intervene if it does not cause symptoms or if it does not block the ear canal. Symptoms caused by earwax: decreased hearing, feeling of pressure in the ear, clogged ear, wheezing (tinnitus), noise in the ears.
- A consultation is required if you have symptoms such as hearing loss, a feeling of pressure in the ears or pain, if you are not sure whether they are a consequence of earwax. Otitis media (fluid buildup behind the eardrum), otitis externa (infection of the ear canal), and sudden hearing loss in the inner ear can have similar symptoms to earwax.
- You can ask us for advice on safe techniques that you can apply at home to treat ear wax.
- Clean the hearing aid as recommended or as instructed by a healthcare professional.
What you should not do:
- Excessive ear cleaning. This process can cause irritation , infections can occur, and wax plugs.
- Q-tips, bobby pins, car keys, toothpicks or other objects should not be inserted into the ear. They can damage the ear canal, puncture the eardrum, or damage the hearing bones, causing hearing loss, dizziness, and other symptoms.
- If home remedies don’t help, don’t ignore the symptoms. Consult a professional if symptoms do not disappear.
- You should not irrigate your ear or try to remove earwax with drops if you have had ear surgery or a perforated eardrum. You should only use them on recommendation.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Preventing Earwax Buildup
What should I do to avoid wax deposits in my ears?
Your body produces wax to protect the skin of the ear canal and destroy germs. It is normal to have wax in the ears. Prevention is beneficial for certain categories of people, but it is not mandatory for everyone. Those who need prevention include the elderly, people who wear hearing aids, and people with a history of excess earwax.
What are the symptoms that can occur if I have too much wax?
The most common ones are itching, hearing loss, feeling of pressure in the ear canal. Other problems that can occur are leakage, odor, coughing or ear pain.
How often should I remove the wax from my ears?
There is no standard procedure to prevent wax deposits. Most of us have nothing to do with it. Ask us what you can do to prevent or reduce earwax deposits.
What if I don't clean my ears?
Most people don’t need regular cleaning to prevent wax deposits. Some people need occasional cleaning. During the routine consultation, we can notice if you have too much wax. You can then get treatment.
Is the earwax removal procedure painful?
The procedures used to remove earwax deposits should not be painful.
If earwax is removed, will my hearing improve?
The type of treatment used to prevent wax deposits should not affect your hearing. If the ear canal is completely or almost completely blocked by too much earwax, removing it will help restore your hearing.
Do cotton swabs remove earwax?
Cotton swabs can remove some earwax, but they often push it inwards, which can lead to ear blockage or damage the ear canal.