Earwax removal is one of the most common reasons people visit the audiologist. While earwax, or cerumen, is a naturally-occurring substance, sometimes people produce too much. When this occurs, individuals are at risk for earwax impaction. Impacted earwax can lead to temporary or sometimes permanent hearing loss. The best way to safely remove excess hearing loss is with professional help.
What is earwax?
Cerumen is the medical term for earwax, and it is a waxy substance found in the ear that every person has. The color can vary from gray, orange, yellow or red. The purpose of cerumen is to protect the delicate mechanisms of the inner ear. The sticky substance collects any debris, bacteria, fungi, insects or water that might try to enter the ear canal. Then, through movements like talking and chewing, cerumen naturally falls out of the ear canal.
However, sometimes excess earwax hardens and stays in the ear, and even gets pushed deep into the ear canal, becoming impacted. Symptoms of impacted earwax include:
- Feeling of fullness in the ears
- Itching in the ears
- Pain in the ears, ear canal or throat
- Hearing loss
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, earwax impaction is actually quite common, affecting 10% of children, 5% of healthy patients and up to 57% of older patients in nursing homes.
At-home options are available. The audiologists at Advanced Audiology Services recommend softening impacted earwax with mineral oil, baby oil or other over-the-counter eardrops or hydrogen peroxide. These solutions work to loosen or soften the wax so it can fall out naturally.
Our audiologists recommend strongly against inserting anything sharp into the ear canal to remove excess earwax; doing so can actually impact the earwax more and puts you at risk for rupturing your eardrum.
Should at-home oil drops not work well enough, impacted earwax can and should be treated by an audiologist. Our specially trained physicians will use their tools to safely and carefully remove any excess or impacted earwax, enabling you to hear better again.
If you think you have excess earwax, suffer from impacted earwax or need professional help cleaning your ears, contact our audiologists today.