Ear Wax Accumulation: What You Should Understand

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you shower, always remember to clean your ears. Whenever you say that, you inevitably use your “parent voice”. Maybe you even recall getting that advice as a child. That’s the sort of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.

But that advice can be pretty helpful. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of problems, especially for your hearing. Even worse, this organic compound can solidify 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. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But it’s actually essential for your ear’s health. Produced by specialized glands in your ear and churned outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.

In other words, the correct amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of bad hygiene.

An excessive amount of earwax is where the problem begins. And it can be somewhat challenging to know if the amount of earwax being produced is healthy or too much.

What does excess earwax do?

So, what happens as a result of excess earwax? There are several problems that could arise as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that builds up over time. Those issues include:

  • Earache: One of the most prevalent signs of excess earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can really hurt. This is usually a result of the earwax creating pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • Infection: Infections can be the outcome of excessive earwax. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it ought not to be.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends heavily on your inner ear. So when accumulated ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can suffer, causing you to feel dizzy.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of uncontrolled earwax accumulation. If you use hearing aids, excess earwax can interfere with them. So excessive earwax might make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

Well, yes it can. One of the most common problems connected with excess earwax is hearing loss. Usually producing a form of conductive hearing loss, earwax builds up in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting in. The problem normally clears up when the earwax is removed, and normally, your hearing will return to normal.

But there can be long-term damage caused by excess earwax, particularly if the buildup gets extreme enough. 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 ignore the symptoms), the bigger the danger of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to protect your hearing, then it seems logical to keep an eye on your earwax. In many instances, earwax accumulation is caused not by excess production but by improper cleaning (for instance, blockage is often caused by cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in instead of removing it).

It will often require 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 as soon as you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the right 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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