What is earwax?

Earwax (also called cerumen) is a waxy substance in the ear canals of humans. It functions to protect the skin of the human ear canal against bacteria, fungi, insects, dirt and water. Furthermore, it assists in cleaning and lubrication.

Can earwax cause hearing loss?

Usually earwax does not cause problems but in some cases the earway builds up to the point where it blocks the ear. That can lead to hearing problems. In those cases the wax is pushed back to the eardrum if more earwax is produced than needed. Not only do hearing problems occur, other symptoms like dizziness, feeling of fullness in the ear or tinnitus.

Cleaning earwax

If you suspect to produce too much earwax and believe this is the reason for a blocked up ear, you can clean your ear. This should generally be done by a doctor, however you can safely attempt to clean out the earwax on your own:

  • Soften the wax: Apply baby oil, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide gently to your ear several times a day.
  • Wash it out: After the wax is softened, it can be washed out. Use a rubber-bulb syringe and tilt your head so the ear canal is straight and the water can gently squirt into the ear canal.

It is recommended to go to the doctor to get assistance with the cleaning of your ear.

Cotton-tipped swabs

Almost every household has the cotton-tipped swabs. People falsely believe that they help to clean out the ear. However, they actually increase the risk for the wax to get pushed back in further and block the ear. Even though they fit the ear canal perfectly and people use them to scratch their ear, they should be kept out of the ears. Our ears are self-cleaning.

What causes the production of too much earwax?

Earwax buildup happens if the ear produces more earwax than needed. There are several health conditions that cause buildup earwax:

  • Infectious disease like “the swimmer” ear
  • Autoimmune disease like lupus
  • Too much water collection in the ear canal
  • Skin disease like eczema
  • Narrowed ear canal due to birth

Earwax in older adults

Earwax buildup increasingly happens when you get older. The reason for that is that with age your ear canal thins while the earwax gets drier and sticker. This is the main reason for conductive hearing loss in older adults. In addition, the cochlea for older adults change and experience a loss of the sensory cells and changes in the nerve fibers which carry the information to the brain.

Looking for an ENT Specialist in Memphis area?

Have a question about earwax and want to speak to a Specialist? call the Shea Clinic today to set up an appointment with Memphis’s top otolaryngologists and audiologists. Call now locally at 901-761-9720 or toll free at 800-477-SHEA.