Ear Wax Accumulation: What You Need to Know

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t neglect cleaning your ears. Whenever you say that, you inevitably use your “parent voice”. Perhaps you even recall getting that advice as a child. As you get caught up in past nostalgia, that kind of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But it’s also good advice. Your hearing can be significantly affected by an overabundance of earwax. Still worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it challenging to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

We get it, earwax is not the most appealing of substances. That’s a viewpoint that most people share. But earwax does have a purpose. Earwax is made by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dust and dirt.

Essentially, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears healthy and clean. However counterintuitive it seems, the truth is that earwax itself is not a sign of bad hygiene.

The problems start when your ears produce too much earwax. And, naturally, it can sometimes be a bit challenging to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax starts to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What is the consequence of excess earwax?

So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, accumulates, can lead to a number of issues. Here are a few:

  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Earwax buildup can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.
  • Earache: One of the most common signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that much, and other times it can hurt a lot. This typically occurs when earwax is creating pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
  • 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 suffer, causing dizziness.
  • Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. Sometimes, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it ought not to be.

These are just a few. Neglected earwax can cause painful headaches. Excess earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you might think your hearing aids are having problems when the real problem is a bit too much earwax.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

The short answer is yes. One of the most typical issues associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it produces a blockage of sound causing a kind of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. The problem normally goes away when the earwax is removed, and usually, your hearing will return to normal.

But there can be long-term damage caused by accumulated earwax, particularly if the buildup gets severe enough. The same is true of earwax-related tinnitus. It’s usually temporary. But the longer the excess earwax hangs around (that is, the longer you disregard the symptoms), the bigger the risk of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to safeguard your hearing, then it makes sense to keep an eye on your earwax. In many cases, earwax buildup is caused not by excessive production but by incorrect cleaning (for instance, blockage is often caused by cotton swabs, which tend to press the earwax further in rather than removing it).

It will usually call for professional removal of the wax that has become hardened to the point that you can’t remove it. You’ll be able to start hearing again after you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct 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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