Earwax blockage (called cerumen impaction)
can occur when your body produces too much earwax or when the existing wax
pushes too far into your ear canal. In some cases, you may not be able to hear
out of the affected ear, but this typically lasts only until you can have the
excess wax removed. In most cases, home treatment works well, but a doctor can
also help eliminate and unplug the earwax blockage.
of Earwax Blockage
The presence of some earwax is normal. Earwax
protects your inner ear from debris, such as bacteria and dust. Normally, the
wax works its way out of your ear gradually so there’s no blockage. However,
you may develop a blockage if you push the wax deep into your ear or naturally
produce an excess amount of earwax.
Using Cotton Swabs
If you try to get the wax out with a cotton
swab or other object, you may end up pushing it further into your ear, creating
Natural Presence of Excessive Wax
Another possible cause of earwax blockage is
that your body just makes more wax than it should. If this is the case, there
may be too much wax for your ear to easily eliminate. If so, the wax may harden
in your ear, making it less likely to work its way out on its own.
of Earwax Blockage
One of the main symptoms of earwax blockage
is decreased hearing in the affected ear. Don’t worry — your hearing will
return once you have the earwax blockage removed.
Other common symptoms include:
- a feeling of fullness in your ear
- an earache
- ringing, buzzing, or other odd
noises in your ear
Most patients only notice these symptoms in
one ear, since it’s unlikely that both ears will be blocked at the same time.
If you are experiencing these symptoms in both ears, you should see a doctor to
rule out any other medical conditions.
Your doctor will likely ask about your
symptoms before diagnosing you with a wax blockage. Your doctor will also use a
lighted instrument called an otoscope to look into your ear and see if wax may
be causing your symptoms.
Your doctor may treat your earwax blockage in
the office, or instruct you on how to do this at home. If your doctor has
reason to believe that your eardrum isn’t intact, they will likely have to
remove the earwax to make sure you don’t damage this important and sensitive
You can use several substances to soften and
remove earwax at home, including:
- mineral oil
- baby oil
- over-the-counter earwax removal
kits (Debrox, for example)
Use an eyedropper to insert a few drops into
your ear canal twice a day for four to five days to soften the wax. Once the
wax is soft, it should come out on its own within a few days. If this doesn’t
work, you can try putting a little hydrogen peroxide in your ear to remove the
Another home care option is irrigation. Fill
a rubber ball syringe with warm water, tilt your head, and pull your earlobe up
a bit so that you can direct the water into your ear canal. You’ll likely have
to repeat this procedure a few times. Dry your ear thoroughly after attempting
to remove the earwax blockage.
At the Doctor’s Office
If these tactics don’t work, you may need your
doctor to suction your ear or remove the blockage with a curette or other
Can Be Expected in the Long Term?
Once you experience an earwax blockage, there’s
no guarantee that it won’t return. If your body produces an excessive amount of
wax, you may have to deal with this condition several times in your life. Fortunately,
earwax blockage is only a temporary issue, and your symptoms should disappear
after you treat the condition.
Some people experience complications from
earwax blockage, such as a fever, ear drainage, and severe ear pain. If you
notice these relatively rare symptoms, you should contact your doctor to have
the wax removed as soon as possible.
If you know you are prone to earwax blockage,
you should consider preventing the buildup by irrigating your ear regularly. This
may reduce the chances of the wax becoming hard and clogging your ear.
Another way to prevent earwax blockage is to
avoid sticking anything in your ear, including the cotton swabs that many
people regularly use to clean out wax. In many cases, this tactic can actually
push wax further into your ear, causing an obstruction. Instead, you should use
a wet cloth or tissue to gently clean your ear.