What You Need to Understand About Earwax Buildup

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t neglect cleaning your ears. Whenever you say that, you unavoidably use your “parent voice”. Perhaps when you were a child you even recall your parents telling you to do it. That’s the kind of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.

But that advice can be pretty helpful. Your hearing can be significantly impacted by an overabundance of earwax. Even worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it challenging to clean out. In a nutshell, the clearer you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

We get it, earwax is not the most pleasing of materials. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But it’s actually important for the health of your ears. Earwax is manufactured by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dirt and dust.

So your ears will stay clean and healthy when they generate the ideal amount of earwax. It may seem peculiar, but earwax doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.

Too much earwax is where the problem begins. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax starts to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What is the consequence of accumulated earwax?

So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, accumulates, can cause several problems. Those issues include:

  • Earache: One of the most prevalent signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, sometimes it can). This is normally a result of the earwax creating pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t actually there, you’re usually dealing with a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can show up or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is vital to your balance. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can be affected, causing dizziness.
  • Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can trap fluid where it shouldn’t be.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and pain can occur because of uncontrolled earwax accumulation. If you wear hearing aids, excess earwax can impede them. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.

Can earwax affect your hearing?

The quick answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most common issues connected to excess earwax. Normally causing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, stopping sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. Your hearing will usually go back to normal after the wax is cleaned out.

But there can be long-term damage caused by accumulated earwax, especially if the buildup gets extreme enough. And tinnitus is also normally temporary but when earwax blockage lingers, long-term damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good idea to keep track of your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. In many circumstances, earwax accumulation is caused not by excess production but by improper cleaning (a cotton swab, for instance, will often compress the earwax in your ear instead of getting rid of it, eventually causing a blockage).

It will usually require professional eradication of the wax that has become solidified to the point that you can’t remove it. The sooner you receive that help, the sooner you’ll be able to hear again (and the sooner you’ll be capable of cleaning your ears the right way).


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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