What we call ear wax occurs because our ear canals are covered with hair follicles and glands that produce an oily wax called cerumen. The reason for this wax is to line the interior surface of the ear canal and defend it by gathering up bacteria, dust and dirt, and miroorganisms. Another purpose of ear wax is to defend the sensitive skin of the ear canal if it is exposed to moisture; Thus, the creation of ear wax is equally natural and healthy.

Normally, ear wax gradually makes its way to the opening of the ear, where it comes out on its own can be removed when we wash our ears. In a few people, however, the glands in their ear canals produce more ear wax than is usual. Because of this, the wax accumulates and may harden, obstructing the ear canal and preventing sound waves from getting to your inner ear. The accumulation of ear wax is among the most common reasons for hearing loss, in persons of any age.

The symptoms of a blockage due to surplus ear wax can include feeling like your ears are stopped up, hearing a ringing noise (tinnitus), and a partial loss of hearing, which becomes worse with time. This kind of hearing loss is referred to as conductive, because the sound waves are hindered from hitting the eardrum, rather than sensorineural, as the consequence of some biological flaw. Luckily, this grounds for hearing loss is easily identified and treated.

If the signs and symptoms listed above sound familiar to you, see us in our clinic where any of our hearing care specialists can perform painless assessments to see whether you do in fact have an excess buildup of ear wax. If it is, an excessive buildup of ear wax is easily treated, either at home or at the clinic.

If a hearing specialist says that you have excess ear wax which is blocking your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it by yourself in your own home. One important thing not to do, however, is to use a cotton swab, which has a tendency to just compact the ear wax, not get rid of it. Instead, add a couple of drops of glycerin, baby oil, mineral oil, or commercial ear drops designed for this purpose to each ear, let them stay in the ear for a couple of minutes to loosen the wax, and then rinse the loosened wax out, using body-temperature water. (Cold or hot water may cause feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) To rinse out the ear drops, consider buying one of the bulb-shaped syringes sold by drug stores, which are intended to make the irrigation process easier. Don’t attempt to use a WaterPik or other jet irrigator designed for the teeth because the pressure of the spray might injure the eardrum, and don’t try any kind of irrigation at home if you believe that your eardrum has been punctured.

If these home treatments don’t manage to clear up the blockage, call or visit us for help.