Ear Wax Basics – Excessive Ear Wax Really Can Affect Your Ability to Hear

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The canals in our ears are covered with hair follicles as well as glands that produce an oily wax known as cerumen, or ear wax. The purpose of this wax is to coat the interior surface of the ear canal and protect it by gathering up bacteria, dirt and dust, and miroorganisms. A further purpose of ear wax is to defend the sensitive skin of the ear canal when it is in contact with water; Thus, the production of ear wax is both natural and healthy.

In the majority of people, ear wax eventually makes its way to the outer sections of the ear, where it either falls out or is rinsed away when we clean our ears. However, the glands in certain people’s ears generate more wax than usual. As a result, the wax accumulates and can harden, obstructing the ear canal and keeping sound waves from getting to your inner ear. The buildup of ear wax is among the most common causes of hearing loss, in persons of all ages.

The signs and symptoms of a blockage due to surplus ear wax may include feeling like your ears are stopped up, experiencing a ringing noise (tinnitus), as well as a partial loss of hearing, that worsens with time. This type of hearing loss is referred to as conductive, because the sound waves are prevented from reaching the eardrum, rather than sensorineural, as the result of some physiological defect. Fortunately, this grounds for hearing loss is readily identified and treated.

For those who have experienced some or all of the symptoms above, come in to our clinic where our hearing specialists can easily and painlessly check to see whether the cause is an accumulation of ear wax. If this is the situation, there are straightforward treatments to remove the excess ear wax that can be done either at home, or in the office.

If an hearing instrument specialist tells you that you have excessive ear wax that is obstructing your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it yourself in your own home. Do not try to use a cotton swab, which can cause the ear wax to become even more compacted. A much better home remedy is to add drops of mineral oil, glycerin, baby oil, or commercial ear drops to each ear, let them loosen the wax build-up, and then rinse it out using water at body temperature. (Please note: using either cold and hot water to flush your ears can lead to feelings of dizziness or vertigo.) Pharmacies offer small bulb-like syringes that can be used to irrigate the ear after the wax has been loosened, assisting the process. 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 form of irrigation at home if you know for sure that you have a punctured eardrum.

If these home treatments don’t manage to solve the blockage, call or visit us for assistance.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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