What most people call ear wax develops because our ear canals are covered with hair follicles and glands that generate an oily wax called cerumen. The purpose of this wax is to line the inner surface of the ear canal and defend it by collecting bacteria, dust and dirt, and miroorganisms. Ear wax also helps to prevent discomfort when the delicate skin of the ear canal is exposed to moisture; Thus, the production of ear wax is equally normal and healthy.
In the majority of 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. However, the glands in some people’s ears make more wax than usual. As a result, the wax builds up and might harden, blocking the ear canal and keeping sound waves from getting to your inner ear. As a result, the accumulation of excessive ear wax is, for individuals of all ages, among the most common reasons for hearing loss.
The signs and symptoms of a blockage caused by too much ear wax may include feeling as though your ears are stopped up, experiencing a ringing noise (tinnitus), and a partial loss of hearing, that gets worse with time. This is a type of conductive (as opposed to sensorineural) hearing loss, where the sound waves are blocked from reaching the eardrum. Luckily, this cause of hearing loss is easily diagnosed and remedied.
If you have experienced some or all of the signs and symptoms previously mentioned, come in to our clinic where our hearing care specialists can quickly and painlessly determine whether the cause is an accumulation of ear wax. If this is the case, there are simple treatment options to clear out the surplus ear wax that can be done either at home, or in the office.
If a hearing specialist tells you that you have excessive ear wax that is blocking your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it by yourself at home. One thing not to attempt, however, is to use a Q-tip, which tends to just compress the ear wax, not get rid of it. A much better home treatment is to add drops of mineral oil, glycerin, 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. (Please note: using either hot or cold water to irrigate your ears can cause feelings of dizziness or vertigo.) Drug stores offer small bulb-like syringes which you can use to flush the ear after the wax has been loosened, facilitating the process. Two more things not to do are to 1) use a jet irrigator like a WaterPik because its spray is too powerful and can cause damage to your eardrums, and 2) use any form of irrigation at home if you know for certain that you have a punctured eardrum.
If these home remedies do not seem to clear up the blockage, call or visit us for help.