What, why and how to treat it?
What is earwax?
It’s a nasty looking thing in your ear canal. If you dare to put your finger in your ear you will feel moisty substance which is a yellowish-gray color.
But, please don’t put your fingers inside of an ear canal. The ear canal is the tube which is leading to the fragile eardrum. With sticking fingers or anything else in your ears, you can develop a painful infection or rupture an eardrum.
Benefits of earwax
It has a moisturizing effect on a skin of an outer ear canal. It also protects bacteria from entering in your ears which later can become your worst nightmare known as ear infection.
The downside of an earwax
There is none unless the glands start to produce too much of it. The complication is known as build-up wax or impacted wax.
How can too much of an earwax happen?
Special glands are in charge of earwax production.
Glands with the help of dead skin cells are together producing an earwax and pushing it slowly from the inner part of an ear to the direct entrance of an ear.
The thing goes wrong when glands are faster-producing earwax than our bodies can remove it. This can be very bad and it can lead to hearing loss.
If you move your jaw you can help to push the earwax all the way to the entrance of an ear canal.
Why does impacted earwax happen?
The right question would be who and why do some people have impacted earwax. We all can blame a little bit of genetics for giving us, for example, narrowed ear canals or ourselves because we were sticking cotton swabs and all the other things in our ears.
There are also other reasons.
For example, there is a high possibility for older people with thinking (cognitive) problems to get excessive earwax.
Also, the people who have a skin disease known as eczema, usually have too much earwax in their ears.
Other health conditions which cause excessive earwax:
- Autoimmune diseases (lupus…)
- Narrowed ear canal (chronic inflammation, injury)
- Due to injury
- Bony blockage (exostosis or osteoma)
- Infectious diseases (Swimmer’s ear, external otitis)
Not necessary that those conditions will directly lead to the impacted earwax.
They can be felt like a physical blockage which is really irritating.
The trigger point for the development of excessive earwax is also the stuff that we put inside of our ears to protect our ears. Stuff such as hearing aids, swimming plugs and swim molds. It is because of its repeating use.
However, in some cases, there is no known reason why does extra earwax form excessively.
Symptoms of impacted earwax
- Hearing loss
- Sense of ear fullness
- Ringing in the ears
- Itching in the ears
You don’t need to have all of the signs mentioned above to be diagnosed for impacted earwax. Usually, 2 symptoms are enough.
We advise you to visit your doctor for a check-up.
How does (ONT) doctor recognize impacted earwax?
The health care provider will diagnose you with an impacted earwax after the check-up (physical exam) and knowledge of your health history status.
*Maybe you will do the hearing test in a big auditory box. By the way, the test is really cool!
Anyway don’t worry about visiting your doctor. It takes only a minute to see through the otoscope if you have impacted earwax. For example if the doctor can not see your eardrum than for sure you have too much of earwax in your ears.
Treatment Of Impacted Earwax
Sometimes you don’t need treatment, because our bodies know how to heal themselves. So don’t panic if you are experiencing any of the symptoms written above. Maybe they will go away on its own.
But if symptoms don’t go away on its own then you have 3 treatment options to get rid of the earwax.
- Ear drops or ear wax remover tools: medicine in drops to soften the wax and slowly breaks the earwax down, or usage of different ear wax remover tools offered on the market like: special ear picker or a special swab
- Ear irrigation : you can cleans your ear with water using an: ear irrigation toolkit, ear washer system tool kit or an RX ear washer toolkit
- Manual removal (doctor tools will be needed)
The doctor will decide which option to take in your case or maybe even the combination of options listed above.
Do not do it by yourself at home. Avoid ear handling and ear vacuum kits. With those tools you can easily rupture an eardrum. If you want to clean your ear at home then we highly advise you to check out our list of the best product for ear cleaning which can be found here.
For cleaning the ear go to a specialist and even if you do it with a specialist some problems can occur.
Complications after cleaning the ear
- Swimmer’s ear
- The sensation of water in the ear canal
- Eardrum hole (perforation)
- Ear pain
- Temporary hearing loss
- Bleeding from the ear
Different people have a different response on cleaning the ear canal. Definitely, you should mention your health history status to your doctor.
Call a doctor immediately if you are bleeding from an ear or you feel severe pain!
Prevention is only possible if you are a healthy individual without any symptoms of the disease such as eczema for example.
If you are healthy you can prevent build-up earwax with a topical agent once a week and go for a regular ear cleaning every half a year.
Of course the number one prevention is not to stick anything in your ears. Cotton swabs even push the earwax more deep in the ear canal.
Prepare yourself for a doctor’s visit
- Be specific why you are visiting the doctor.
- Come with a list of questions.
- Have a buddy next to you. Two heads remember more than only one.
- Ask the doctor if there are more ways to treat your condition.
- Write down a contact number from a doctor in case of the emergency.
Stefan Grasic (Dipl.-Jur) A researcher with considerable experience in health related niches. While he was studying in Netherlands he used to be a part time writer for Health~Holland on-line magazine.