What we call ear wax occurs because our ear canals are covered with hair follicles and glands that generate an oily wax called cerumen. This wax coats the inner surface of the ear canal and helps to protect it by attracting and gathering alien particles such as dust and dirt, bacteria, and other microorganisms. Another purpose of ear wax is to defend the sensitive skin of the ear canal when it is in contact with moisture; So there is nothing unnatural or unhealthy about ear wax or the creation of it.
For most people, ear wax gradually makes its way to the external areas of the ear, where it either falls out or is rinsed away when we clean our ears. But, the glands in certain people’s ears make more wax than normal. Because of this, the wax accumulates and can harden, obstructing the ear canal and preventing sound waves from reaching your inner ear. For that reason, the buildup of excessive ear wax is, for people of all ages, one of the more common causes of hearing difficulties.
Symptoms of ear wax obstruction include earaches, a feeling that the ear is closed up, a chronic ringing noise (tinnitus), and partial hearing loss, which has a tendency to get steadily worse. This is a type of conductive (as opposed to sensorineural) hearing loss, where the sound waves are blocked from getting to the eardrum. Thankfully, this cause of hearing loss is easily identified and treated.
For those who have experienced some or all of the signs and symptoms previously mentioned, come in to our office where our hearing care specialists can easily and painlessly check to see if the cause is a build up of ear wax. If this is the situation, there are hassle-free treatments to remove the excess ear wax that can be performed either at home, or in the office.
If an audiologist tells you that you have excessive ear wax which is blocking your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it by yourself right at home. Don’t attempt to use a cotton swab or Q-tip, which can cause the ear wax to become even more compacted. A much better home treatment is to add drops of glycerin, mineral oil, baby oil, or commercial ear drops to each ear, allow them to loosen the wax build-up, and then rinse it out using water at body temperature. (Note: using either hot or cold water to irrigate your ears can lead to feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) To rinse out the ear drops, consider buying one of the bulb-shaped syringes sold by pharmacies, which are designed to make the irrigation procedure simplier and easier. Two more things not to do are to 1) use a jet irrigator such as a WaterPik because its spray is too strong and may cause damage to your eardrums, and 2) use any kind of irrigation at home if you know for certain that you have a punctured eardrum.
If these home remedies do not seem to solve the blockage, call or visit us for assistance.