Ear Wax Buildup: What You Need to Know

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t neglect cleaning your ears. It’s difficult not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Perhaps you even remember getting that advice as a child. That’s the kind of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.

But it’s also good advice. Your hearing can be substantially impacted by out-of-control earwax. Still worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it challenging to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, kind of gross. That’s an opinion that most individuals share. But it is actually essential for your ear’s health. Produced by special glands in your ear and pushed outwards by your jaw’s chewing motion, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.

In other words, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears healthy and clean. It might seem peculiar, but earwax doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.

Too much earwax is where the trouble begins. And it can be fairly challenging to know if the amount of earwax being created is healthy or too much.

What does accumulated earwax do?

So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? There are numerous issues that may arise as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that accumulates over time. Those issues include:

  • Earache: An earache is one of the most common symptoms of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can hurt a lot. This is usually a result of the earwax creating pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.
  • Infection: Infections can be the outcome of excessive earwax. Sometimes, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it ought not to be.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends heavily on your inner ear. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can be affected, causing dizziness.

This list is only the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of unchecked earwax accumulation. Excess earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you may think your hearing aids are having problems when the real issue is a bit too much earwax.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

The quick answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent issues connected to excess earwax. Usually producing a form of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. Your hearing will usually go back to normal after the wax is cleaned out.

But if the buildup becomes extreme, long term damage can occur. The same is true of earwax-related tinnitus. It’s normally temporary. But the longer the excess earwax hangs around (that is, the longer you neglect the symptoms), the bigger the danger of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good plan to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to protect your hearing. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most situations (a cotton swab, for example, will often compact the earwax in your ear instead of getting rid of it, eventually causing a blockage).

It will often call for professional eradication of the wax that has become hardened to the point that you can’t get rid of it. You’ll be able to start hearing again after you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct way.


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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