Ear Wax and Hearing Loss

Ear wax buildup or blockage is a frequent cause of hearing loss. Most people produce a normal amount of ear wax and do not require management while others may have recurrent problems. The ear canal is lined with hair follicles and glands that produce a waxy, oily substance called “cerumen”. It naturally migrates to the opening of the ear canal and is wiped away with routine hygiene.

In some cases, the glands in the ear produce more wax than can be easily removed. Excess wax can harden and obstruct the ear canal; hearing loss may occur.This type of hearing loss is temporary in most instancesand improves with removal of the obstruction.

Functions of Ear Wax

Many people do not consider the function or importance of ear wax. While it is a nuisance to some, it actually protects the ear by trapping and preventing dust or debris from entering the ear canal. It also protects against bacteria and other germs from entering the ear and damaging it. Ear wax protects the delicate skin of the ear canal from irritation and infection.

Symptoms of Wax Blockage

If wax buildup occurs and is not addressed, it can cause earaches, a plugged or “fullness” sensation in the ear, ringing noises in the ear (tinnitus) and worsening of existing hearing loss.

Treatment

The first part of treating ear wax blockage is to be certain it is causing your problems. This can be done by a qualified healthcare provider called an Otolaryngologist.Ear wax removal is treated by various methods, including:

  1. Your ENT physician using a microscope and ear instruments
  2. Irrigation with warm water
  3. Suctioning

It is not recommended an individual try to remove ear waxfrom his or her own ears as this may cause serious damage, infections or permanent hearing loss.

Prevention of Wax Blockage

The following solutions/remedies can be used at home to soften wax in the ear:

  1. Baby oil
  2. Commercial ear drop solutions
  3. Glycerin drops
  4. Mineral oil

When to Contact a Medical Professional

It is recommended you see a qualified healthcare provider for evaluation if experiencing any of the previously listed problems that may result from ear wax blockage.  Any of the physicians at Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates are extensively trained to treat patients with ear wax buildup.