What most people 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 collecting alien particles such as dust and dirt, bacteria, and other microbes. Another purpose of ear wax is to guard the delicate skin of the ear canal if it is in contact with moisture; Thus, the creation of ear wax is both normal and healthy.

In most people, ear wax ultimately makes its way to the external areas of the ear, where it either falls out or can be washed away when we clean our ears. But, the glands in some people’s ears generate more wax than usual. As a result, the wax accumulates and can harden, blocking the ear canal and preventing sound waves from getting to your inner ear. The build-up of ear wax is among the most common grounds for hearing problems, in people of any age.

Indications of ear wax obstruction normally include earaches, a sensation that the ear is closed up, a constant ringing noise (tinnitus), and partial hearing loss, which has a tendency to get gradually worse. This is a kind of conductive (as opposed to sensorineural) hearing loss, where the sound waves are impeded from reaching the eardrum. Loss of hearing attributable to excess ear wax, fortunately, can be easily identified and treated.

If the signs and symptoms mentioned above sound familiar to you, see us in our clinic where any of our hearing care specialists can do painless assessments to see whether you do in fact have an excess buildup of ear wax. If this is the case, there are simple treatment options to remove the excess ear wax that can be done either at home, or in the office.

If an hearing instrument specialist says that you have excessive ear wax that is obstructing your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it yourself at home. Do not try to use a Q-tip, which can cause the ear wax to become even more compacted. A better home remedy is to add drops of glycerin, mineral oil, baby oil, or commercial ear drops to each ear, let them loosen the wax buildup, and then rinse it out using water at body temperature. (Hot or cold water can cause feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) To rinse out the ear drops, look at buying one of the bulb-shaped syringes sold by pharmacies, which are designed to make the irrigation procedure easier. Two more things not to do are to 1) use a jet irrigator such as a WaterPik because its spray is simply too powerful and can cause damage to your eardrums, and 2) use any kind of irrigation at home if you know for sure that you have a punctured eardrum.

If this does not seem to work to get rid of the accumulation of ear wax, come see us.