Earwax Buildup and Blockage: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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a little boy who suffer from Earwax Buildup and Blockage

1Overview

The ear canal normally produces a waxy oil dubbed as cerumen, which is known as earwax in layman’s term. The cerumen acts as a protective layer of the ear from foreign particles, dust and certain microorganisms that enter the ear canal.

The earwax also protects the ear canal skin from irritation from the water. Normally, the earwax finds its way out of the canal and washed away during baths.

Cerumen or earwax has both antibacterial and lubricating properties. Often, the old earwax is moved through the ear canal by motions from jaw movements like chewing. The earwax reaches the outside of the ear and flakes off. Sometimes, it gets washed away by taking a bath.

Earwax is produced inside the ears to keep them free of germs and clean. Earwax build-up is a common problem that’s easily treated. Sometimes, however, the earwax becomes impacted. This happens when the earwax builds up inside the canal to such a point that there may be signs that something isn’t right. Earwax blockage happens when people use cotton swabs or bobby pins to try to clean the ears. Instead of cleaning the ears, these push the earwax farther into the ears.

2Symptoms

The common signs and symptoms that signal the presence of an earwax build-up and blockage include:

Ear pain – When you have a sudden earache without exposure to debris, foreign objects, water, and pollution, it may be due to an impacted cerumen or earwax blockage, pressing on the auditory nerve.

TinnitusThe “ringing in the ears” or tinnitus can be experienced in people with an earwax build up and blockage. If the ears tend to buzz or ring, it means that there is something inside the ears.

Dark-colored wax – Usually, the earwax is colored yellow or light brown. However, if the color turns to dark-colored, it signals that the ears are filled with dust, dirt, debris and possibly, microorganisms.

Fullness in the ear – The feeling of fullness in the ears is like a cotton ball or something is blocking the ear canal. Removing the earwax will provide relief and will eradicate the discomfort.

Hearing loss – When you have an earwax blockage, you may experience total or partial hearing loss. The sudden loss of hearing is not permanent and when the earwax build-up is removed, the hearing will come back.

The other symptoms include:

3Causes

Here are the most common causes of earwax build-up and blockage:

Environment – The situation in the environment may lead to the build-up and blockage of earwax inside the ear canal. Sometimes, when there is a lot of pollen, germs, debris, and dust in the air, these may enter the ear canal. When this happens, the ears will compensate by producing more earwax, leading to earwax buildup.

Family history – Believe it or not but some people may produce more ear wax than others. This could be linked to genetics. If you have family members who produce excessive ear wax, you are at a heightened risk of having one, too.

Ear cleaning – Impacted cerumen or ear wax is common in people who clean their ears incorrectly through the use of bobby pins, car keys, cotton swabs and other sharp objects. When the skin is scratched, you will produce excess ear wax to prevent infection and irritation. Even if you do not irritate the skin, you may push the ear wax inwards.

Using earphones – Excessively using headphones or earphones with love music may trigger the ears to produce more ear wax. Also, it prevents the ear wax from falling out the ears properly.

4Diagnosis

The doctor will determine if there is an earwax blockage by just looking inside the patient’s ear with a special instrument called otoscope. Foreign bodies inside the ear canal and a swollen canal can impair the visualization of the tympanic membrane. These should be ruled out first before attempting to treat the condition.

5Treatment

Here are the possible treatment options for ear wax blockage:

Ear Wax Removal

The patient can visit a doctor to have the ear wax removed. The doctor will use a small and curved instrument dubbed as a curette.

Ear Irrigation

Another way to remove earwax blockage or buildup is through ear irrigation. This will be done by a medical practitioner and you should never attempt to do this on your own. Irrigating your ear may damage the eardrum, which is dangerous as it could lead to hearing loss or infection.

Softening the earwax

There are many over-the-counter drops that are formulated to soften the ear wax, making it easier to fall out from the ears. You can also use hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, baby oil, mineral oil, and glycerin.

Once you had an impacted cerumen, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have it again. If your body produces too much cerumen or wax, you may have to experience the condition many times in your life. Ear wax blockage is just a temporary issue and the symptoms tend to disappear if it’s treated properly.

If the patient with a blocked ear wax, the complications that could happen include ear discharge, fever, and severe ear pain. If these happen, urgent treatment is needed.

6Prevention

Earwax is a protective substance produced in the ear canal to protect from foreign bodies and infection. Here are the ways to prevent ear wax blockage:

  • If you’re always experiencing a hard earwax all the time, you can keep the ear wax soft by putting drops of hydrogen peroxide mixed with water and mineral oil into the ear.
  • Never use cotton swabs, other small items, bobby pins and toys in the ear. These items can lead to the excessive production of ear wax, eardrum damage or puncture and hear bones dislocation.
  • Do not let water, shampoo or soap to enter the ear when you take a shower.
  • Avoid over cleaning your ears because this can lead to the irritation of the ear canal, the buildup of earwax and ear infection.
  • Never use ear candles because they can lead to eardrum and ear canal damage. There is still unclear regulations and evidence on the efficacy of ear candles in the removal of excess ear wax.