Causes, Symptoms & Treatment For Ear Wax Buildup Blockage

Can ear wax cause hearing loss? Can impacted earwax affect my hearing?

The short and simple answer to this question is YES. In fact, it is the most common cause of conductive hearing loss. This is the result of a physical barrier, like excess wax which stops sound from travelling from the outer ear to the inner ear. Luckily, this hearing loss is reversible if we remove the blockage from the ear. There are certain situations which point towards earwax blockage:

Ear Wax Buildup Blockage Diagram

  • Hearing loss
  • Earache
  • Itching
  • Coughing
  • Fullness in your ear or feeling of the ear is plugged
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)

However, earwax is not always bad for your ears. It can only cause hearing loss if earwax builds up too much. The other reason for that is your attempt to clean your ear using cotton-swab where you end up pushing it back into the ear canal. This may result in the requirement of hearing aid.

Excessive Ear wax and Reason for its Existence

Earwax is the mixture of skin cells and waxy oil (i.e. cerumen) produced near the outer ear in order to trap dust, bacteria, and other potentially harmful things before they reach ear canal. The normal amount of earwax created by our body should never be removed. Chewing and moving your jaws help in the natural migration of earwax as it moves from the ear canal to the outer ear. Eventually, the wax reaches the outer part of the ear, where it dries up and flake off without you even noticing. It can be a temporary water repellent for our ear.

Following this process, the ears are designed in such a way that they can clean themselves. Some earwax is required in order to keep your ears healthy. Its absence may result in dry or itchy ears. Cleaning ears shouldn’t be needed by most people. However, excess wax production by glands may be there in some people. They have an ear canal that doesn’t allow the hardened wax to escape and block the ear. In other cases, it is found that some other factor makes manual wax removal necessary.

Be cautious when trying to clean earwax buildup at home. Visit your doctor, if the problem persists. Generally, the treatment is quick and painless, and hearing can be reversed.

Causes of earwax buildup

Some people are more prone to produce the excess of earwax. Still, it doesn’t lead to blockage by itself. The most common cause of earwax blockage is at-home removal. Using cotton swabs, bobby pins, or any other pointed objects in your ear canal can push wax deeper, hence creating a blockage.

The chances to have more wax buildup is due to frequent use earphones. It prevents earwax from coming out of the ear canals and cause ear blockages.

If earwax production is too much, the motion of your jaw is not enough to move out the wax on its own. It doesn’t mean that you should use Q-Tips clear it out. Q-Tips push the wax deeper into your ear canal and cause the wax to become impacted. Hearing loss can be experienced if the ear canal is blocked with impacted wax. Consult a doctor to get earwax removed.

Signs & symptoms of impacted ear wax Buildup

The earwax appearance varies from light yellow to dark brown color. It’s not necessary that the darker color of earwax indicate that there’s a blockage.

Signs of earwax buildup include:

  • Experiencing sudden or partial hearing loss (usually temporary)
  • Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear)
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • An earache
  • Vertigo

Untreated earwax buildup can lead to ear infection. Consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms of ear infection, such as:

  • Severe ear pain
  • Ear pain that doesn’t subside
  • Drainage from ear
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Persistent hearing loss
  • An odor coming from your ear
  • Dizziness
  • Itching

These symptoms may also have some other causes. Consult a professional if any of the symptoms are frequent. Only a medical evaluation can determine if the problem is due to excessive earwax or any other health issue.

Earwax in Children

Children, just like normal adults, naturally produce earwax. While removing the wax may seem to be tempting, but doing this can damage your child’s ears to a severe extent.

It’s best to consult a pediatrician if you suspect your child having earwax buildup or a blockage. A pediatrician may also notice excess wax buildup during regular ear exams and remove it as required. Ask the pediatrician to check their ears for wax buildup if the child is sticking their finger or other objects in their ear due to irritation.

Earwax in Adult

Earwax can be problematic even in older adults. Some adults avoid wax buildup until it becomes an obstruction for your hearing. In most cases of adults with the conductive hearing loss, the main cause is earwax buildup. Wax blockage can also be due to the hearing aid.

Getting Rid of Excess Earwax

Never attempt to clear out earwax buildup on your own. This can damage your ear leading to an ear infection or hearing loss. There are certain ways to get rid of excess earwax buildup.

Using Cotton-Swab, Right?

NO!

Cotton swabs should never be inserted in your ears as it pushes the wax further into the ear canal causing an impaction. Earwax isn’t produced near the eardrum, so if there is a blockage it is an indication that wax has been manually pushed inward. Cotton swabs or any other foreign object could easily damage the delicate parts of the inner ear, including the eardrum.

Best Ways to Clean Your Ears

If you find yourself with excess wax, then hearing healthcare professional can help you remove it using certain methods:

  • Softening earwax – Over-the-Counter drops can be purchased which are made specifically for this purpose. Following substances can be used for earwax softening:
  1. Mineral oil
  2. Hydrogen Peroxide
  3. Carbamide Peroxide
  4. Baby Oil
  5. Glycerin
  • Ear irrigation – Ear irrigation is another way to remove earwax buildup from your ear. But make sure to never attempt to irrigate your ear if suffering from an ear injury or had a medical procedure done on your ear recently. Irrigation of a ruptured eardrum can result in a temporary hearing loss or ear infection.Never use products meant for mouth or teeth irrigation. The force produced by them is more than your eardrum can safely tolerate.Follow the directions provided with an over-the-counter kit to do ear irrigation, or follow the given steps:
    1. Stand or sit with your head in an upright position.
    2. Hold the outer ear and pull it upward gently.
    3. Using a syringe, send a stream of body-temperature water into your ear. Too cold or too warm water can cause dizziness.
    4. Allow water to drain by tipping your head.It may be required to do this procedure several times. If the wax buildup is often for you, then routine ear irrigations may help prevent the condition.

What will be the Outlook?

Earwax is a natural part of your ear health, but it may be bothersome. Removing earwax should be avoided with any object which can worsen the problem. In some cases, even the eardrum or ear canal get damaged with the use of cotton swabs.

Medical help is usually necessary, only when excess earwax doesn’t come out on its own. If you suspect to have earwax buildup or blockage, consult the doctor for assistance. Most people don’t require medical help frequently for earwax removal. In fact, a once-a-year cleaning by your doctor is usually enough to keep blockage at bay.

Seek medical help if you’re unable to clear the earwax or if ear becomes irritated. There are other conditions that may cause symptoms of earwax buildup. It’s important for the doctor to rule those out. Otoscope, a lighted instrument with a magnifier is used to see clearly into the inner ear.

The doctor may use following methods to remove earwax:

  • Ear Irrigation
  • Suction
  • A curette, i.e a small, curved instrument

Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

In most cases, hearing returns to normal immediately after earwax removal. However, some people are much prone to produce more earwax and will face the problem again.

In this article, we have tried to explain everything you should be knowing about impacted ear wax. In case, you need more advice & details regarding the best ways to get rid of earwax, you should consult a doctor. Dial our toll-free number 1800-121-4408 to get in touch with a hearing expert.



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