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The canals in our ears are lined with hair follicles and glands that produce an oily wax called cerumen, or ear wax. The reason for this wax is to coat the inner surface of the ear canal and defend it by collecting bacteria, dust and dirt, and miroorganisms. Another purpose of ear wax is to defend the hypersensitive skin of the ear canal when it is exposed to water; Thus, the production of ear wax is both natural and healthy.

For most people, ear wax ultimately makes its way to the outer sections of the ear, where it either falls out or is rinsed away when we wash our ears. In some people, however, the glands in their ear canals generate more ear wax than is normal. This excess ear wax can accumulate in the ear canal and become hard, creating a blockage that hinders sound waves from reaching your eardrum. The buildup of ear wax is one of the most commonly seen causes of hearing loss, in people of all ages.

The signs of ear wax obstruction include things like earaches, a sense that the ear is clogged up, a consistent ringing noise (tinnitus), and partial loss of hearing, which seems to get progressively more serious. This is a form of conductive (rather than sensorineural) hearing loss, where the sound waves are impeded from reaching the eardrum. Fortunately, this cause of hearing loss is easily identified and treated.

If you have experienced some or all of the symptoms above, come in to our practice where our hearing care specialists can easily and painlessly check to see whether the cause is a build up of ear wax. If it is, an abnormal accumulation of ear wax is easily treated, either at home or at the office.

If a hearing care professional diagnoses you as having earwax blockage, there are actions you can take in your own home to remove it. One important thing not to do, however, is to use a Q-tip, which tends to just compress the ear wax, not get rid of it. Instead, add a couple of drops of baby oil, glycerin, mineral oil, or commercial ear drops made for this purpose to each ear, let them remain in the ear for a few minutes to loosen the wax, and then rinse the loosened wax out, using body-temperature water. (Hot or cold water may cause feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) Pharmacies offer small bulb-like syringes which you can use to irrigate the ear after the wax has been loosened, assisting the process. Do not attempt to use a WaterPik or other jet irrigator created for the teeth because the force of the spray could damage the eardrum, and don’t attempt any form of irrigation at home if you believe that your eardrum has been punctured.

If these home remedies do not seem to clear up the blockage, call or visit us for help.