What You Should Know About Earwax Buildup

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you shower, always remember to wash your ears. It’s difficult not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe when you were a child you even recall your parents telling you to do it. As you get caught up in past nostalgia, that kind of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But that advice can be pretty helpful. Your hearing can be substantially affected by an overabundance of earwax. And additionally, earwax can solidify inside your ear and become really difficult to clean. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, sort of gross. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. 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.

Essentially, the ideal amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself is not a sign of poor hygiene.

The problems begin when your ears produce too much earwax. And it can be somewhat challenging to know if the amount of earwax being produced is healthy or too much.

What does accumulated earwax do?

So, what develops as a consequence of excess earwax? There are several problems that may arise as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that accumulates over time. Here are a few:

  • Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re usually dealing with a condition called tinnitus. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.
  • Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can get trapped behind impacted earwax.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends greatly on your inner ear. So when accumulated ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can be affected, causing dizziness.
  • Earache: An earache is one of the most common signs 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 somewhere it shouldn’t.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can happen because of unchecked earwax accumulation. Excess earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

The short answer is yes. One of the most common problems connected with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax accumulates in the ear canal it causes a blockage of sound causing a kind of hearing loss known as conductive hearing loss. The issue normally goes away when the earwax is removed, and normally, your hearing will go back to normal.

But if the accumulation becomes severe, permanent damage can occur. And tinnitus is also normally temporary but when earwax blockage persists, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become an enduring condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to safeguard your hearing, then it seems logical to keep an eye on your earwax. In many cases, earwax buildup is caused not by excessive production but by incorrect cleaning (for instance, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which will push the earwax further in instead of getting rid of it).

It will usually call for professional removal 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 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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