The canals in our ears are covered with hair follicles and glands that create an oily wax called cerumen, or ear wax. This wax coats the interior surface of the ear canal and helps to protect it by attracting and collecting foreign debris like dirt and dust, bacteria, and other microorganisms. A further reason for ear wax is to guard the sensitive skin of the ear canal if it is in contact with moisture; Thus, the production of ear wax is both natural and healthy.
For most people, ear wax gradually makes its way to the outer areas of the ear, where it either falls out or can be rinsed away when we clean our ears. In some people, however, the glands in their ear canals generate more ear wax than is usual. Because of this, the wax builds up and might harden, obstructing the ear canal and keeping sound waves from reaching your inner ear. As a result, the accumulation of excess ear wax is, for people of every age, one of the more common causes of hearing loss.
The symptoms of a blockage caused by surplus ear wax can include feeling as if your ears are stopped up, experiencing a ringing noise (tinnitus), as well as a partial loss of hearing, which worsens with time. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, since the sound waves are prevented from hitting the eardrum, rather than sensorineural, as the result of some biological defect. Hearing loss caused by built up ear wax, luckily, can be easily diagnosed and remedied.
If you have experienced some or all of the signs and symptoms previously mentioned, come in to our practice where our specialists can easily and painlessly check to see if the cause is an accumulation of ear wax. If this is the situation, there are straightforward treatments to get rid of the surplus ear wax that can be done either at home, or in the office.
If a hearing specialist says that you have excess ear wax which is blocking your ear canal, you can take steps to remove it yourself at home. One of the things not to do, however, is to use a cotton swab or Q-tip, which has a tendency to just compress the ear wax, not get rid of it. A much better home treatment is to add drops of mineral oil, glycerin, baby oil, or commercial ear drops to each ear, allow them to loosen the wax build-up, and then wash it out using water at body temperature. (Please note: using either cold and hot water to irrigate your ears can lead to feelings of dizziness or vertigo.) To wash out the ear drops, consider buying one of the bulb-shaped syringes offered by drug stores, which are intended to make the irrigation process easier. Two more things not to do are to 1) use a jet irrigator like a WaterPik because its spray is simply too powerful and can cause damage to your eardrums, and 2) use any kind of irrigation at home if you know for sure that you have a punctured eardrum.
If this does not seem to work to get rid of the accumulation of ear wax, come visit us.