What most people call ear wax develops because our ear canals are covered with hair follicles and glands that produce an oily wax called cerumen. This wax coats the interior surface of the ear canal and helps to protect it by attracting and gathering foreign particles such as dirt and dust, bacteria, and various microorganisms. Another purpose of ear wax is to defend the delicate skin of the ear canal when it is in contact with water; So there is absolutely nothing unnatural or unhealthy about ear wax or the production of it.
For most people, ear wax gradually makes its way to the external sections of the ear, where it either falls out or can be washed away when we wash our ears. But, the glands in some people’s ears produce more wax than normal. The excess ear wax can accumulate in the ear canal and harden, creating a blockage that prevents sound waves from reaching your eardrum. The build-up of ear wax is among the most commonly seen grounds for hearing loss, in people of any age.
Indications of ear wax obstruction normally include earaches, a sense that the ear is stopped up, a consistent ringing noise (tinnitus), and partial loss of hearing, which seems to get progressively worse. This is a form of conductive (as opposed to sensorineural) hearing loss, where the sound waves are blocked from reaching the eardrum. Loss of hearing brought on by excess ear wax, luckily, can be easily identified and treated.
If the symptoms listed above sound familiar to you, see us in our clinic where any of our hearing care specialists can perform painless assessments to see whether you do indeed have an excess accumulation of ear wax. If it is, an excessive accumulation of ear wax is readily treated, either at home or at the office.
If an audiologist says that you have excessive ear wax that is obstructing your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it yourself in your own home. One of the things not to do, however, is to use a Q-tip or cotton swab, which has a tendency to just compress the ear wax, not remove it. Instead, add a couple of drops of baby oil, glycerin, mineral oil, or commercial ear drops designed for this purpose to each ear, let them stay in the ear for a few minutes to loosen the wax, and then rinse the loosened wax out, using body-temperature water. (Note: using either hot or cold water to flush your ears can lead to feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) To rinse out the ear drops, consider purchasing one of the bulb-shaped syringes sold by pharmacies, which are designed to make the irrigation process easier. Do not attempt to use a WaterPik or any other jet irrigator created for the teeth because the pressure of the spray might injure the eardrum, and do not attempt any type of irrigation at home if you believe that your eardrum has been punctured.
If these home treatments don’t seem to clear up the blockage, call or visit us for help.