When our patients walk through our door, they are often suspect that their symptoms or hearing loss is due to excessive wax build-up. We commonly hear, “my ears are probably plugged with wax,” or “my ears are likely dirty.” This type of hearing loss, called conductive hearing loss, is commonly caused by a physical barrier, like excess wax build up, preventing sound from entering the inner ear. What should you do if you suspect a blockage is causing partial hearing loss?
Why Does Earwax Exist?
Unbeknownst to most people, earwax, which is also known as cerumen, actually plays an important role in protecting the ears. Having wax in the ear canal is normal and does not reflect personal hygiene. We need wax in our ear canals because it:
- assists in cleaning the ear canal
- keeps our ear canals moist and helps with itchiness
- protects against infection
- repels insects and other foreign objects
- keeps dust and dirt from collecting in the ear
Typically, earwax does not cause any problems and it is not recommended to attempt to clean the wax from your ears. Blockages can occur as a result of wax getting pushed into and impacted in the ear canal, resulting in a variety of ear issues.
Issues Related to Excess Build Up of Wax
Cerumen has a self-cleaning mechanism and often works its way out of the ear canal on its own. When it doesn’t, it can build up in the ear canal causing a blockage, similar to an earplug. A blockage like this can cause discomfort, mild to moderate conductive hearing loss and possibly an infection if not attended to. Hearing aid users tend to be more prone to experiencing a blockage as the wax has difficulties leaving the ear canal. Signs of earwax build up may include:
- partial hearing loss
- tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ear
Before attempting an earwax removal method, it is important to determine if earwax blockage is the culprit for any symptoms you may be experiencing. Contact your doctor to determine if any other conditions may be causing your symptoms.
Recommended Techniques For Earwax Removal
There are many ways to remove wax, such as wax softening drops and ear irrigation. You may want to research the validity and safety of any non-medical methods of removing wax. It is important to note that often these methods can do more harm than good, particularly if you have had an ear injury or a medical procedure done on your ear in the past. For example, some may be surprised to learn that Q-tips are not recommended for your ear canal. In any case, before moving forward with an “at home ear cleaning tool,” please consult with a hearing loss professional.
Contact A Hearing Professional
If you think you might have a problem with wax build up causing your hearing loss or other symptoms, it is best to consult your family physician or an audiologist to discuss the best strategy. Get in touch, and we would be happy to take a look.