Ear Wax Buildup: What You Should Know

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t forget to wash your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe you even remember 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 that advice can be rather helpful. Your hearing can be substantially affected by an overabundance of earwax. Still worse, this organic compound can solidify in place making it difficult to clean out. In a nutshell, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, kind of gross. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But earwax does have a purpose. Created by special glands in your ear and churned outwards by your jaw’s chewing motion, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.

Essentially, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears healthy and clean. It might seem strange, but earwax doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.

An excessive amount of earwax is where the problem begins. And it can be rather challenging to know if the amount of earwax being generated is healthy or too much.

What is the impact of accumulated earwax?

So, what develops as a consequence of accumulated earwax? Earwax that gets out of control 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 buzzing or ringing in your ears. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to appear.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. You can suffer from bouts of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having problems.
  • Infection: Infections can be the consequence of surplus earwax. If fluid builds up, it can become trapped behind plugged earwax.
  • Earache: An earache is one of the most common indications of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that much, and other times it can really hurt. This is typically a result of the earwax producing pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and pain can happen because of uncontrolled earwax buildup. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you may think your hearing aids are malfunctioning when the real issue is a little bit too much earwax.

Can earwax impact your hearing?

The short answer is yes. One of the most common problems 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 known as conductive hearing loss. The issue normally clears up when the earwax is extracted, and normally, your hearing will return to normal.

But if the accumulation becomes severe, long term damage can appear. The same is true of earwax-caused tinnitus. It’s usually not permanent. But the longer the extra earwax hangs around (that is, the longer you disregard the symptoms), the greater the danger 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 accumulation is caused not by excess production but by improper cleaning (a cotton swab, for instance, will often compress the earwax in your ear instead of removing it, eventually leading to a blockage).

Frequently, the wax has become hardened, thick, and unmovable without professional treatment. The sooner you receive that treatment, the sooner you’ll be capable of hearing again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start cleaning your ears the correct way).


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.