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Ear Wax – Causes & Symptoms of Ear Wax Build Up

What is ear wax & Symptoms of Ear Wax Build Up?

Ear wax is the waxy oil produced by the glands in the ear canal. Medically known as cerumen, the ear wax has both the properties:

• Lubrication

• Antibacterial

The ear wax, along with the tiny hairs in the ear, protects the ear structures by trapping any foreign particles or dust or microorganisms.
Typically the excess ear wax moves to the ear opening due to the jaw movement or due to growth skin growth inside the ear canal. In this article, you will know about signs and symptoms of Ear Wax Build Up and causes of Ear Wax Build Up.

Note: Ear discharge is the drainage of fluid from the ear. A majority of the time, ear discharge contains ear wax; however, in some instances, it can also contain blood or pus.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ear Wax Build-up and Blockage?

Here’s the signs and symptoms of an Ear Wax build up and blockage, The ear wax gets its color from the dirt, foreign agents, and the bacteria it has trapped. Its color can vary between light yellow to dark brown or black. Generally, Symptoms of Ear Wax Build up considered that:

• The darker the ear wax, the older it is.

• Dark brown earwax has redness in it is a sign of bleeding

• Yellow, orange and light brown signal healthy and normal ear wax

If your answer to any of the following symptoms of Ear Wax Build up is a ‘yes’ you should consult with your health care provider about the possible changes of an ear build-up and ear blockage:

• Do you have a feeling of fullness in the ear?

• Do you have a sudden but temporary hearing loss in one or both the ears?

• Do you have earaches

• Do you hear a buzzing or high-pitched ringing sound (Tinnitus)?

• Do you have an itching sensation in the ear?

• Do you or somebody around you sense an odor coming out of your ear?

What causes ear wax build-up?

After the signs and symptoms of Ear Wax build up you should know about the its causes. When the glands produce more than the average amounts of ear wax, it will eventually get hard and block the ear. This is called ear wax build-up. While cleaning the ears, generally, people push the ear wax deeper inside, leading to an ear blockage.

Some people’s glands are just prone to producing more than the necessary amount of ear wax. However, in other cases, several factors like persistent use of earplugs or hearing aids or the use of cotton swabs can causes ear wax build-up.

Note: Ear wax impaction is the term used to describe the stage wherein the ear wax has built up more than the usual amount, and you can start noticing certain complications because of it.

Alert: Ear blockage can lead to a temporary loss of hearing. Hence for cleaning the ears, it is always advisable to go to an ENT specialist

What happens if ear wax blockage is left untreated?

If left untreated, the symptoms of Ear wax build up and complications of ear wax may get worse with time:

• Hearing loss

• Irritation

• Coughing

• Lack of visibility inside the ear- this prohibits the diagnostic capabilities of the doctors

• Infection

• Dizziness

How is ear wax build-up diagnosed?

causes and symptoms of ear wax build up

The ENT specialist will look inside your ear with an otoscope to check for ear wax build-up. An Otoscope is a device used for the visual examination of the ear canal and the eardrums.


Read More Ear Pain (Earache) – Earache Symptoms & Earache Causes


How to remove excess ear wax?

Softening ear wax: Ear drops can be used for softening the ear wax. Generally, your doctor will recommend one of the following three types of over-the-counter ear drops:

• Debrox: contains water and oils

• Murine: contains water and oils

• Mixture containing hydrogen peroxide: hydrogen peroxide helps in softening the ear wax so that it can be drained out.

Oil-based ear wax removal solutions contain the following types of oil:

• Olive oil

• Propylene glycol

• Glycerine

• Baby oil

Oil-based solutions help in lubricating the wax whereas hydrogen peroxide helps in softening the ear wax

How do you get ear drops to go down in your ear?

1. Lie on your side – one ear should be facing up and the other down

2. Fill the ear canal with the ear drop

3. Stay in this position for 5 minutes after you have put in the ear drop

4. When you get back in the upright position use a tissue to wipe out any fluid that drains out

To have successful results, it is recommended that you repeat this cycle of 4 steps several times a day.

In some cases, ear drops may not be effective in softening the ear wax. If the ear drops fail to drain out the ear wax, your doctor may recommend the following:

• Ear irrigation

• Ear wax loop

• Solution machine

Note: If you feel uncomfortable with the ear wax removal process, you can discuss with your doctor about the use of general anesthesia during the whole process.

Ear irrigation: In this, a syringe is used to send a stream of warm water in your ears so that when the water drains out, it brings out the excessive ear wax.

Alert: For ear syringing or ear waxing, if you are using an over-counter-kit, you should be alert about the following:

• Don’t use water that is too hot or too cold as that may cause dizziness

• Don’t use the products made for your mouth or teeth in your ear as that may damage the eardrum

• Don’t use ear irrigation to for ear wax removal by yourself if you have had an injury or if your eardrums are damaged

Suction machine: this is used to perform micro-suction ear wax removal in which a microscope and a suction device are used for removing the ear wax.

Ear wax loop: Simple way to remove ear wax at home quickly. The safety guard stops the loop from going too deep inside the ear canal and therefore avoids any damages to the eardrums.

Curette: this is used along with the suction machine to scrape out the ear wax. Its long and curved shape makes it efficient for removing the blockage

know more…

Do ear candles work?

Symptoms and causes of Ear Wax

If you are facing any signs and symptoms of Ear Wax build up, Ear candles are considered unsafe and have not been scientifically proven to be useful for the treatment for ear wax build-up and blockage. In an ear candle treatment, the candle’s heat is used to remove the earwax and other impurities from the ear. However, since this method is risky, and there is little evidence of its effectiveness, the FDA has taken a firm stand against its usage.

Who is at a higher risk of ear wax build-up?

If you lie in any of the following categories, the chances of you experiencing ear wax build-up and blockage are incredibly high:

• People in high age groups

• People who have developmental disabilities

• Heavy users of earplugs

• If you use hearing aids

• If you regularly put cotton swabs in your ears.

How can you prevent ear wax build-up and blockage?

After the facing any symptoms of ear wax build up this is how you can prevent ear wax build up and blockage. While in some cases, ear wax build-up is natural, you can avoid it in other cases:

• Avoid consistent use of earplugs

• Avoid the use of cotton swabs and bobby pins

• If you have noticed the symptoms of ear wax build-up consult a doctor as trying to drain out the wax by yourself may lead to a blockage

Dr sumit

Dr. Sumit Sharma

MBBS (ENT- Honours) (KGMC-Lucknow),
M.S. (KGMC- Lucknow), FAOI (AIIMS), FAOI (U.K.)


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