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Here Is What You Need to Know About Earwax

Written by
Dr. Kumar Ashutosh
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Sep 18, 2017 and last reviewed on Jun 17, 2022   -  5 min read


Wax is a natural secretion of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands found in the ear canal. It protects the eardrum from infections, trauma, and water. Though wax is not a problem, excess wax is. Professional help must always be taken for wax cleaning.

Here Is What You Need to Know About Earwax

Earwax is medically called cerumen, which is a natural secretion and has antibacterial and lubricant properties. It also protects the eardrum from infections, trauma, and water. Some people produce soft wax, while others produce hard wax. This is genetically determined.

Normally, earwax occurs as fine flakes which fall off during jaw movements while chewing. But, it may accumulate in the ear due to various reasons. The existing cerumen will usually fall out of the ear naturally.

What Causes Excessive Earwax to Form?

Excessive earwax can build up in the canal either because the person tends to produce hard wax or pushes the wax deeper into the canal using earbuds and other objects.

It can cause pain, hearing problems, itching, ringing sensations in the ear, heaviness, ear fullness, and ear discharge. Treatment options include the use of wax softening agents, instrumentation, and syringing.

Self-cleaning of the wax buildup should always be avoided as it may cause trauma to the eardrum. Always seek help from a professional ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor for wax cleaning.

The other factors that increase the risk of too much earwax may include:

Symptoms of Excess Earwax Buildup:

  1. Pain: Wax is the most common cause of earache.

  2. Hearing Problem: Wax buildup can cause hearing problems due to mechanical obstruction. Deafness may also be precipitated when water enters the ear during a bath to swell the wax.

  3. Itching: Earwax impaction can cause ear irritation and itchiness.

  4. Ringing Sensation In The Ear: It is also known as tinnitus.The ringing can be intermittent or continuous.

  5. Vertigo (feeling dizzy and sick).

  6. Hearing loss.

  7. Plugged or Fullness Sensation: Trying to clean the ears often pushes the earwax further into the canal, causing a blockage.

  8. Ear Discharge: Discharge and odor follow an ear infection caused by improper wax removal methods.

  9. Decreased hearing.

  10. Dizziness.

  11. Cough.

  12. Fever.

  13. Odor coming from the ear.

Does the Color Of The Earwax Signify Anything?

Healthy earwax may occur in a different range of colors, and each denotes a color that does have meaning. The earwax can be wet or dry based on the genetics.

Wet Earwax:

Dry Earwax:

How To Diagnose Earwax Blockage?

A doctor can diagnose earwax blockage by listening to the patient's symptoms and then looking into the ear with an otoscope (ear scope).

What To Do If You Feel That You Have Excess Earwax?

When To Consult With A Doctor For Earwax Blockage?

Consult with your doctor for earwax blockage if you have symptoms like:

Treatment for Earwax Impaction:

  1. Wax Softening Agents: Several wax-softening agents like mineral oil, baby oil, hydrogen peroxide solution and wax drops containing paradichlorobenzene, benzocaine, and turpentine oil are available, which soften the wax.

  2. Instrumentation: Your healthcare professional can clean the blocked ears using special and sterilized instruments. Do not try cleaning by yourselves as it can cause an injury to your eardrums.

  3. Syringing: In this procedure, the health care provider will flush your ear canal with warm saline or water. This is a quick and painless procedure where an electric pump pushes water or warm saline into the ear and wash the earwax out.

  4. Microsuction: A quick and painless procedure where a small device is used to suck the earwax out of the ear

  5. An aural toilet is a thin instrument with a small hoop inserted from one end to clean the ear and scrape out the earwax.

Earcare Tips:

  1. Do not put earbuds or bobby pins into your ears. This will push the earwax deeper and can even traumatize your eardrum.

  2. Do not pour hot oil into the ear canal as it can damage your eardrum.

  3. Do not use cold water to clean your ears, as it can cause vertigo.

  4. Using earphones for prolonged periods can push the wax deeper into the ear canal, making it difficult to remove.

How To Prevent Earwax?

You can prevent earwax blockage by avoiding cotton-tipped swabs (like Q-tips) and other objects that push the wax further into the ear canal.

What Are The Complication Of Earwax?

Problems can happen if earwax is not removed carefully and correctly. These include:

Last reviewed at:
17 Jun 2022  -  5 min read




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