Continue Learning About Hearing Damage
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
Can Ear Wax Cause Hearing Loss
We have all experienced ear wax in one way or;another. It is a natural part of life whether it is;gooey,;flaky,;or crusty.;But what is it, why does our body produce it, and how does it impact;our;hearing?;Ear wax is medically referred to as cerumen . This normal, naturally occurring substance is secreted in the ear canalthe connection between your outer and inner ear. Ear wax is made up of secretions from the sebaceous and sweat glands, as well as sloughed off skin cells from the ear. Ear wax usually picks up a few more microscopic friends, ranging from hair, to dirt and other tiny debris as it slowly migrates to the outer;ear. The waxy mixture then naturally makes the outward journey, usually nudged along;by;jaw motions such as talking;or;chewing.;
The Genesis And Treatment Of A Common Ear Condition
Some earwax is good for your ears, so often the best policy is to leave it alone. And a few drops of water may be all you need to get rid of a blockage.
Earwax, a bodily emanation that many of us would rather do without, is actually pretty useful stuff in small amounts. It’s a natural cleanser as it moves from inside the ear canal outward, gathering dead skin cells, hair, and dirt along the way. Tests have shown that it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. If your ears don’t have enough earwax, they’re likely to feel itchy and uncomfortable.
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Total Earwax Blockage Is Rare
Soundwaves only need a tiny opening in the ear canal to reach the eardrum. Thus, even a lot of earwax shouldnt cause noticeable hearing loss.
If, however, the ear canal is plugged tightly with earwax, and cerumen impaction is severe enough to cause hearing loss, there will most likely be other signs and symptoms noticed before the hearing loss such as dizziness, ear fullness , itchiness or pain or ringing in the ears.
Rarely does total cerumen impaction happen. And if it does, rarely does it occur without there being additional signs that something is wrong.
Earwax And Hearing Loss: Everything You Need To Know
Cerumen, or earwax, is a natural substance in your ear canal that keeps out debris and bacteria. Earwax usually dries up and falls out on its own, but for some, earwax can build up and cause hearing loss.
âThis kind of hearing loss is referred to as a âconductive hearing lossâ and can resolve with the removal of the wax plug,â Lilach Saperstein, AuD, Israel-based audiologist and host of the All About Audiology podcast, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
If your earwax buildup is causing an infection, you might experience:
- Drainage from the ear canal
- Odor coming from the ear
If earwax is not removed safely, it can cause trauma to the ear, which can result in permanent hearing loss. Earwax can also be especially harmful to toddlers, according to Leann Poston, MD, a pediatrician in Dayton, Ohio. âChronic hearing loss, even when due to earwax, can cause speech delays in toddlers,â Poston says.
When it comes to clearing earwax, reaching for a Q-tip is not the safest bet. âThere have been cases where the earwax is improperly removed with cotton sticks or hair pins or pens, which can then cause damage to the ear canal or even rupture the eardrum,â Saperstein says.
The Cleveland Clinic advises that commercial suction tools do not work for most people, and ear candles, which are advertised as a ânaturalâ earwax remedy, could put you at risk for burns.
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What Does It Mean When Earwax Becomes Impacted
We say that earwax is impacted when it has built up in the ear canal to such a point that there may be signs that something isnt quite right. Its important to note that most people might never need to clean their ears. Ears are designed to clean themselves. Earwax buildup and blockage often happens when people use items like cotton swabs or bobby pins to try to clean their ears. This only pushes the earwax farther into the ears and can also cause injury to the ear.
What Should I Do If I Have Excessive Earwax
Its best to seek professional advice and treatment as soon as you notice any changes to your ears, whether thats excess earwax or any other hearing-related issues.
If you think you have excessive earwax, or if your earwax is causing you problems, you can come in-store and make use of our earwax removal service.;
You can learn more about tinnitus here or find out more about earwax, including specialist advice on ear cleaning, on our earwax hub. You can also call your local store to chat about any concerns you have about your hearing or earwax.
1. Wu V, Cooke B, Eitutis S, Simpson MTW, Beyea JA. Approach to tinnitus management. Can Fam Physician. 2018;64:491-495.
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How To Remove An Earwax Blockage Causing Hearing Loss
One of the most important things to remember is that, when youre experience an earwax blockage, you should never put anything in your ear in an attempt to clean it out. Many people have fallen into the bad habit of using cotton swabs or other small foreign objects to try and clean the inside of their ears.;
However, rather than helping, this more often pushes the earwax in further, making the blockage even harder to remove. Furthermore, cotton swabs and other objects can irritate or damage the inside of the ear canal, which can lead to an infection and may even cause harm to the very sensitive parts of the ear, such as the eardrum.
Important To Get Ear Wax Removed
It is important when you are wearing hearing aids that you get ear wax build ups removed semi-regularly. How regularly depends on you. Some people hardly produce ear wax, others seem to over produce it. The real problem is that hearing aids do not like ear wax, ear wax can cause a host of problems for hearing aids.;
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Surprising Benefits Of Bananas You Possibly Didnt Know About
Earwax varies in color. Having dark or black ear wax does not necessarily indicate an earwax blockage. Black earwax only means that the wax has been in your ear for a long time. The color of the wax can tell how long does the wax remain in your ear. Symptoms of earwax build-up include the feeling of fullness in the ear, cough, dizziness, tinnitus, decreased hearing, and earache. If left untreated, impacted earwax may lead to an ear infection. Symptoms of infection include severe pain, fever, dizziness, persistent pain, the fluid outflow from your ear, odor from the ear, and temporary hearing loss. If you experience these symptoms, you should consult your doctor. Impacted cerumen is among the most common ear problems that patients see doctors for.
This article lists the common causes of earwax impaction.
When To See Your Gp
Contact your GP surgery if you have particularly troublesome symptoms or eardrops haven’t helped after three to five days.
Your GP or practice nurse will look inside your ears to check if they’re blocked and might carry out some simple hearing tests.
They may suggest using eardrops for a bit longer, or they may carry out a minor procedure called ear irrigation to clean out your ear canal.
If these treatments aren’t suitable or don’t help, your GP may refer you to the ENT department of your nearest hospital for more specialised treatments such as microsuction or an aural toilet.
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Can Earwax Cause Hearing Loss Learn About 4 Surprising Consequences Of Earwax
Despite how unpleasant many people think earwax is, it can actually be good for your ear. Ear wax, also called cerumen, is a naturally occurring substance secreted by the ear canal. It helps protect, lubricate and disinfect your ears with its antibacterial properties.
Some earwax can be beneficial, but too much can cause problems. An ear canal clogged with earwax can lead to unexpected problems, some of which dont directly involve the ears.
The type of earwax you have matters, too. The drier your earwax is, the less likely it is to reach your outer ear on its own. Dry earwax is much more likely to cause a cerumen impaction. Older people have drier earwax than younger people and are at a higher degree of risk.
Here are 4 unexpected ways earwax buildup can impact your life, including potentially leading to hearing loss.
1. Chronic cough
One of the last things people might expect earwax buildup to lead to is a coughing fit. But, according to many recent studies, thats often the case.
In a 2017 submission to the editor of The American Journal of Medicine, a team of doctors confirmed what other studies had already showed: cerumen impaction and chronic cough are strongly connected.
Specifically, earwax buildup can lead to the over-stimulation of the vagus nerve in the ear canal. This is what causes coughing. In 2017 alone, over 15 cases of mysterious chronic coughs disappearing after impacted ear wax was removed.
2. Dizziness or imbalance
3. Hearing loss
4. Pain and infection
Can Digging In Your Ear Cause Damage
Digging in your ears can easily cause damage to your eardrum, as mentioned above. As a result, you will have some hearing problems as your eardrum repairs itself. Thats a key point to make; your eardrums can repair and heal over time. So, the damage doesnt have to be permanent.;
Problems arise when you continue to dig around in your ears even after youve suffered from a perforated eardrum.;
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Change Your Wax Guards
If you want to keep your hearing aids in tip-top shape, make sure you change your wax guards when you need to. The wax guard is the only thing that keeps wax out of the speaker of your hearing aid. Usually, they do a fantastic job, however, if you leave it too long between changes the wax guard can fail and allow ear wax past.;;
Make a visual inspection of your wax filter, if it is packed with wax, use the brush that came with your cleaning kit on it to try and dislodge it. This is better done in the morning because usually the ear wax will have dried overnight and will be easier to dislodge. If you can’t get it all out, well then it is time to change the wax guard.;
How Do Hearing Aids Impact Ear Wax
Hearing aids that rest in the ear can block the natural journey ear wax must take to exit the ear. This ear blockage can stimulate the ear canal glands to produce more wax. Some hearing aid wearers report having more ear wax after getting hearing aids.;If you wear hearing aids,;it is;important to keep on top of ear wax, as it can block your ears , as well as the receiver and other parts of your hearing aid device. The acidic nature of ear wax can damage the delicate electrical components. In fact, ear wax buildup is one of the most common reasons for hearing aid repairs.;Learn how to clean ear wax from your hearing aids;here.;You can also visit;your hearing care provider, who should be able to help clean any wax from your hearing aids or send them out for repairs, if needed.;
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Will Tinnitus Worsen After Removing Earwax
A small number of people can find a temporary increase in their tinnitus after successful treatment. This is simply due to more sound travelling through the ear canal once the blockage has been removed, but the increased sensitivity and tinnitus should resolve by itself relatively quickly.
There are occasional reports that tinnitus symptoms can become worse after earwax removal. Wed always advise against using at-home treatments for earwax removal, including irrigation or candling. When done poorly, do-it-yourself remedies can further irritate the ear and its delicate components, which risk making your symptoms worse. Thats why its best to see a healthcare professional who can do this safely.
Is Too Much Earwax Bad
Earwax protects your ears from bacteria, viruses, and airborne irritants that can enter your body via the ear canal. If earwax becomes impacted, it can no longer serve these functions. Getting impacted earwax removed as soon as possible helps you safeguard your health. If earwax buildup goes untreated, it makes infection of the ears much more likely.
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Why Total Earwax Blockage Is Rare
A big reason why cerumen impaction doesnt happen very often is because our ears mostly clean themselves, and if left alone will prevent earwax from accumulating to the point of total blockage.
Still, as with most things, never say never. Certainly, there are things that can cause earwax blockage such as incorrect use of cotton swabs, advanced age, narrow or abnormally shaped ear canals, or using ill-advised methods to clean the ears. Typically, it is something that affects the normal outward flow of earwax.
Putting Things In Your Ears
There are a few items that are meant to go into your ears. These include:
- Earplugs to protect your hearing or keep water out.
- Hearing aids to help you hear.
In these cases, the benefits may outweigh the risks. But your ears dont know the difference between helpful things in your ears and harmful ones. They may produce extra wax to try to push them out.
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Can Earwax Removal Improve Hearing
Earwax is essential. However, it can be burdensome when we have too much of it. When we have too much earwax, we can experience mild hearing loss, as the wax blocks sound and noise as it enters the ear. When we dont have enough earwax to protect us from airborne or touch-transferred bacteria and fungi, we are at risk for infection. Earwax is created by the wax glands found in the external ear canal and acts as a barrier to keep the skin of the ear free of water and germs.
What are the symptoms of excess earwax?
Blockage caused by too much earwax can cause earaches and the sensation that the ear is full or plugged up. Excessive earwax can also be determined by partial hearing loss, noises within the ear and itchiness. Furthermore, when there is too much ear wax, it can trap bacteria in the ear canal and cause infection.
Can earwax blockage be treated?
Does earwax removal actually improve hearing?
The answer is yes, if your hearing loss is partial and caused by wax blockage. In this case, your hearing will improve after the excessive wax is removed. If this is not the case then your doctor will recommend an otologist . When you visit the otologist, they will perform hearing tests to determine the severity of your hearing loss and determine if you can benefit from hearing aids.
Causes Of Earwax Buildup
Some people are prone to produce too much earwax. Still, excess wax doesnt automatically lead to blockage. In fact, the most common cause of earwax blockage is at-home removal. Using cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects in your ear canal can also push wax deeper, creating a blockage.
Youre also more likely to have wax buildup if you frequently use earphones. They can inadvertently prevent earwax from coming out of the ear canals and cause blockages.
The appearance of earwax varies from light yellow to dark brown. Darker colors dont necessarily indicate that theres a blockage.
Signs of earwax buildup include:
- sudden or partial hearing loss, which is usually temporary
- tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ear
- a feeling of fullness in the ear
Unremoved earwax buildup can lead to infection. Contact your doctor if you experience the symptoms of infection, such as:
Its important to note that hearing loss, dizziness, and earaches also have many other causes. See your doctor if any of these symptoms are frequent. A full medical evaluation can help determine whether the problem is due to excess earwax or another health issue entirely.
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Causes Of Excess Ear Wax
Under normal circumstances, the body has a method of removing earwax and sloughed skin through the movements of the jawbone during activities like chewing or talking. Jaw movement causes the ear wax to move from your eardrum towards your outer ear.
Also, the skin of the ear canal tends to migrate from the depths of the ear canal to the more outer parts of the ear canal as it exfoliates acting somewhat like a conveyor belt to push the wax out.
About 6 out of 100 people accumulate excess earwax. However, the risk is higher in children, older adults, people with small or narrow ear canals, people with excessive hair at the entrance of the ear canal, and people with cognitive impairments.
Reasons for the excessive accumulation of ear wax include:
- Lack of ear wax and sloughed skin migration: Can be the result of the normal aging process; can also be caused inappropriate ear wax removal methods
- Narrowing: Can be affected by the shape of an individual’s ear canal, soft tissue narrowing , or increased amounts of hair in the ear canal.
- Obstruction: Bone , skin sloughing, or soft tissue
- Overproduction:Trauma, trapped water, and other unknown causes
Also, common objects used in the ears can also lead to an earwax obstruction. Items such as hearing aids, music earbuds, and earplugs hinder the natural migration of earwax.
When To Get Medical Help
You’ll need assistance to remove a blockage. If the buildup is fairly close to the opening of the ear canal, a general practitioner can do the job. In fact, earwax removal is one of the most common otolaryngological procedures performed in a primary care setting. There are two common techniques doctors employ to remove impacted wax. One involves using a curette, a slender instrument designed to fit into the narrow ear canal, with a curved tip to scrape or scoop out wax. The other method is to use an irrigation device, like a rubber bulb syringe or a water pick filled with warm water .
There are risks to both methods, though. Scraping away with a curette can nick the skin in the ear canal, and sending a force of water into the canal can damage the eardrum or lead to infection if some of that liquid gets stuck behind the eardrum and isn’t able to drain properly.
If the ear is impacted with a hard, stubborn chunk of wax that’s really lodged in there, it’s time to bring out the big guns namely, an ear, nose and throat doctor . This specialist has an arsenal of precise tools at his disposal to go deep, without harming the delicate eardrum. One method Ying uses involves a suspended surgical microscope, which lets her see deep inside the ear canal as she works; she dilates the ear canal with a speculum, then uses suction to dislodge the wax.
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Professional Ear Cleaning From Your Ent Doctor
Having your ear cleaned by your ENT doctor is both the safest and the most effective way to get rid of an earwax blockage and to undo hearing loss caused by it. They may recommend over-the-counter ear drops, which are often made using glycerin, baby oil or olive oil. However, if you have a hole in your eardrum, this can lead to pain, infection, and hearing loss.;
Your ENT doctor can also help directly in a variety of ways. They can irrigate the ear safely using their in-office ear cleaning kits, flushing it out with the careful application of pressure. Or they may use a small instrument shaped like a scoop to manually remove the earwax blockage bit by bit until your hearing is stored. They may even use a device that provides suction to vacuum out the earwax.
How Does Digging In Your Ears Cause Tinnitus
The main problem with digging in your ears especially with something like a cotton bud is that you do more harm than good. Any audiologist will tell you that cotton buds are not the way to clean your ears and remove earwax! It may look like youre doing a good job as theres wax on the buds, but whats really happening?
Effectively, youre pushing the wax deeper into your ear canal. Youre just rubbing a bit on the surface of the cotton bud, then pushing the rest further in. This is an issue as it can cause the wax to become impacted deep within the canal.;
As a consequence, impacted earwax doesnt get removed from the ears and begins to harden. This causes a blockage in the canal, which can lead to temporary hearing loss. Therefore, its possible to experience the symptoms of tinnitus because you have hearing loss.;
But, digging deep into your ears can also cause issues with your eardrum. This is an essential component of the ear, and it can very easily be perforated. In essence, this means that the eardrum tears a little bit. It can lead to intense pain, hearing loss and tinnitus. Sticking something deep into your ear canal means its highly possible to come into contact with your eardrum and perforate it. Likewise, you can push earwax so deep into your ear that it irritates the eardrum and may cause perforation or tinnitus.;
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Problems From Using Cotton
- The cotton-tipped swab pushes the wax back in. The earwax builds up and causes symptoms.
- Ear canal blockage
- Trapped water behind the wax .
- Itchy or painful canals, especially in teens who often use Q-tips. A dry ear canal is always itchy.
- Sometimes, bleeding or damage to the eardrum.
- Cotton swabs cause more than 10,000 ear injuries each year in the US. More than 2,000 are punctured ear drums. Never allow young children to play with cotton swabs.
Harmful Effects Of Listening Music With Earphones
Technology is the most necessary evil of our times and one such necessity currently is that of earphones/headphones. While taking early morning walk, crossing the street, boarding a metro, traveling in a bus, sipping coffee in a café or just a call in the office, throughout the day you will encounter several people listening to music or talking through earphones. However, by letting your earphones plugged in too much, you might not be disturbing the people around you, but you certainly are harming yourself enough without taking note of it.
The World Health Organization estimated that around a billion young people across the globe could be at the risk of hearing loss because of the unsafe listening habits, they practice through earphones.
The primary concern with the headphones is the volume exposure that they give the ears. Earphones are capable of producing very loud levels of sound very close to the ear and hence are very dangerous. However, it must be noted that it is not always about the volume of the headphones but also the long duration for which the earphones are used. Earphones are exposed to germs also as they are exposed to too many places where they are kept. Sharing the earphones paves way for the transfer of these germs which further induces harmful effects on ears.
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