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.
More on Your Hearing
Does The Color Of Earwax Mean Anything
Healthy earwax comes in a range of colors, but sometimes color does have meaning. First you have to consider if you have wet earwax or dry earwax.
Wet earwax comes in a range of colors including light yellow, honey-color, and orange-brown. Wet earwax is sticky. Dry earwax is likely to be whitish or gray in color and is flaky.
Generally, in either case, darker colored earwax is older earwax. It is more likely to contain dust and has had more exposure to the air.
If your earwax is more of a discharge, like it contains white or greenish pus, or you find it caked on your pillow after sleeping, you should contact your healthcare provider. You should also contact your healthcare provider if you see blood or if your earwax is quite obviously black.
There’s another interesting thing related to having wet or dry earwax. People of European and African descent overwhelmingly have wet earwax. People of Asian, East Asian and Native American descent overwhelmingly have dry earwax. This is due to a genetic difference. In addition, people with wet earwax are more likely to need deodorant. People with dry earwax lack a chemical that makes sweat smell.
Medical Treatment For Earwax Blockage
Your doctor may use one or a combination of methods to remove your earwax:
They can scoop it out with a small plastic spoon called a curette.
They can irrigate your ear with warmed water, sodium bicarbonate, or other prescription-strength ear drops and flush the wax out.
They can use gentle suction to remove the wax.
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Prevention Of Blocked Ear Canals
- Never put cotton swabs into the ear canal.
- Cotton swabs just push the earwax deeper into the ear canal. Reason: Cotton swabs are usually wider than a child’s ear canal.
- Earwax doesn’t need any help getting out. You can’t hurry the process.
- Never try to dig out pieces of earwax with toothpicks, match sticks or other devices. Usually, doing this just pushes the wax back in.
- These objects can also scratch the ear canal and cause an infection.
- If all of the ear wax is removed , the ear canals become itchy. They also become more prone to swimmer’s ear. This can occur in teens when cotton swabs are smaller than the ear canal.
- Limit the use of ear plugs.
How To Safely Remove Ear Wax
Earwax is a substance naturally produced by the body to shield the ears, according to Cleveland Clinic. It is medically known as cerumen. As unappealing as it may look, earwax is quite essential for your health. It carries numerous hygienic properties that help keep the infectious agents at bay. Earwax is commonly located in the outer region of the ear canal and does not go deep into the ear. As the earwax is reaching the outside of the ear, it turns dry and flakey. Earwax color may range from off-white, orange, light brown, or black, according to MedicalNewsToday. The newly developed earwax is usually yellowish, while the old build-up is darker in shade and appears dry.
While earwax is harmless, it’s important to remove excessive earwax before it blocks the ear canal and causes serious complications, warns Cleveland Clinic. If it remains intact, you may be susceptible to irritation and even loss of hearing. At times, you may even feel dizziness or experience tinnitus.
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Use A Saline Solution
Sometimes a little bit of salinity in the water helps to remove earwax. Its best to make your own solution instead of the bottled saline. Completely dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a half-cup of warm water. Soak a cotton ball in the saline solution, tilt your head and then use the saturated cotton to drip the salt water into your ear. Allow the water to stay in your ear for a few minutes, then tilt in the opposite direction to drain out the saline. Do this for each ear.
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Getting Help From Your Doctor
Most people dont need frequent medical help for earwax removal. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic says that a once-a-year cleaning at your annual doctors appointment is usually enough to keep blockage at bay.
If youre unable to clear the wax or if your ear becomes more irritated, seek medical treatment. Other conditions may cause symptoms of earwax buildup. Its important that your doctor can rule those out. They can use an otoscope, a lighted instrument with a magnifier, to see clearly into your inner ear.
To remove wax buildup, your doctor may use:
- a curette, which is a small, curved instrument
Follow your doctors instructions for aftercare carefully.
Most people do well after earwax removal. Hearing often returns to normal immediately. However, some people are prone to produce too much wax and will face the problem again.
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How To Treat Earwax Buildup
It is very tempting to try to treat earwax buildup at home, but we offer a word of caution. Please don’t attempt home remedies for earwax removal. The best way to ensure the safety of your ears is to allow a Specialist from South Florida ENT Associates to examine your earwax buildup and determine the best course of treatment.
Most people do not need to see a medical professional frequently for the treatment of excessive earwax buildup. A once-a-year cleaning at your doctor’s office should be sufficient to maintain ear health and the appropriate balance of wax in your ears. If you do frequently experience earwax buildup, it is important to be examined by a medical professional to ensure that there isn’t an underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
How Do I Get Wax Out Of My Baby’s Ear
Earwax should be left alone if it is not causing symptoms and is not preventing your pediatrician from examining your child’s ear. If you plan on cleaning your child’s ears, use a soft washcloth to wipe away wax that makes its way to the very outer part of the ear.
You should never use a Q-tip to clean inside your child’s ear. Many experts think that regularly doing so might actually lead to the buildup of excessive earwax.
There are three main methods of earwax removal if excessive wax is causing a problem.
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Should I Use Cotton Swabs Or Ear Candles To Remove Earwax
No. Cotton swabs dont remove earwax. Instead, they push it deeper into the ear canal, where it cant escape. Using cotton swabs can also dry out delicate skin and cause irritation.You also shouldnt use ear candles, which are purported to remove wax with heat but have not been shown to be effective and, in fact, can be harmful. Ear candles can damage the ear canal or eardrum.
The same rule goes for not putting anything else into your ear, especially pointy things like bobby pins or car keys . Anything pointy could potentially puncture your eardrum.
Sticking things into your ear can have very negative consequences and can also be one of the main causes of earwax impaction.
Why Do My Ears Produce So Much Earwax
It is healthy and normal for your ears to produce ear wax. Wax not only helps to prevent ear infections, but also traps unwanted particles which could otherwise damage the delicate mechanisms inside the ear. A lack of earwax can actually cause your ears to feel itchy and dry. Wax is an important part of a healthy functioning ear.
However, several factors may contribute to earwax problems including: environment, family history, anatomy, age and lifestyle.
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Earwax Buildup And Blockage
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What is earwax buildup?
Your ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax. This wax protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, and microorganisms. It also protects ear canal skin from irritation due to water. In normal circumstances, excess wax finds its way out of the canal and into the ear opening naturally, and then is washed away.
When your glands make more earwax than necessary, it may get hard and block the ear. When you clean your ears, you can accidentally push the wax deeper, causing a blockage. Wax buildup is a common reason for temporary hearing loss.
You should take great caution when trying to treat earwax buildup at home. If the problem persists, visit your doctor. Treatment is generally quick and painless, and hearing can be fully restored.
Natural Presence Of Excessive Wax
Another possible cause of earwax blockage is that your body just makes more wax than it should. In this case, there may be too much wax for your ear to easily eliminate. If so, the wax may harden in your ear, making it less likely to work its way out on its own.
One of the main symptoms of earwax blockage is in the affected ear. Dont worry your hearing will return once you have the earwax blockage removed.
Other common symptoms include:
Most people only notice these symptoms in one ear, since its unlikely that both ears will be blocked at the same time. If youre experiencing these symptoms in both ears, you should see a doctor to rule out any other medical conditions.
Your doctor will likely ask about your symptoms before diagnosing you with a wax blockage. Your doctor will also use a lighted instrument called an otoscope to look into your ear and see if wax may be causing your symptoms.
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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.
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When To See A Doctor
While varying shades and textures of earwax can come from healthy ears, there are still some instances in which a person should see a doctor.
Anyone experiencing discharge from the ear that is not earwax should consult a doctor, as this could be a sign of an ear infection.
Also, see a doctor if there is blood in earwax. Additionally, anyone who is prone to buildups of earwax should consult a doctor at the first sign of a blockage, such as muffled hearing.
Some people are more likely to produce an excess of earwax, including people who:
- have very high-stress lifestyles
- have a lot of hair in their ears
- have a deformation in their ear canals
These people have a risk of blockages and buildups of earwax. If they experience any symptoms, such as muffled hearing, they should see their doctors to discuss how to safely eliminate the wax from their ears.
The number one rule for taking care of the ears is to simply leave them alone. Do not insert anything into the ear canal to try to remove earwax, including fingers, cotton swabs, or any pointy tool or instrument.
Putting anything into the ear canal only increases the risk of pushing wax deeper in, where it may get stuck and cause blockages.
Also, avoid using ear candles, which involves inserting a waxed tube into the ear and lighting it on fire. Some practitioners claim that this helps remove wax and reduce other symptoms of ear issues, but no scientific evidence supports this claim.
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When Is Earwax A Problem
Fresh earwax is soft and yellow. Older earwax is brown or black. It may even look like blood. The wax may also be dry, white, and flaky.
Too much earwax in the ear can be uncomfortable. If too much earwax is in the ear canal, it may act like an earplug, blocking sound entering the ear and making it harder to hear.
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When To Seek Medical Care For Earwax
See your doctor if you think you may have any symptoms of an earwax impaction. Other conditions may cause these symptoms and it is important to be sure earwax is the culprit before trying any home remedies.
Go to the hospital if:
You have a severe spinning sensation, loss of balance, or inability to walk
You have persistent vomiting or high fever
You have sudden loss of hearing
When To See A Doctor For Ear Wax Removal
While you can treat an earwax blockage at home, as mentioned, your eardrum and ear canal are delicate, therefore, it will be safer to allow your Houston ENT doctor to perform the earwax removal.
You should also see your doctor if you’re experiencing any drainage or bleeding from your ear or are dealing with significant pain since another problem could be causing these symptoms.
Make an appointment with a pediatrician if you have concerns that your child has an impacted cerumen. They’ll examine your child’s ears and suggest a treatment option.
If ear wax removal at home is not satisfactory or if you have an accumulation of wax in your ear so much it’s causing a blockage in your ear canal and/or is affecting your hearing, seek medical attention. Your doctor can prescribe you specific ear drops that will help soften the wax. Or, they may simply vacuum or wash it out. In some cases, an ENT or otolaryngologist might need to use a microscopic visualization procedure to remove the wax.
The doctor can remove a blockage using:
A rubber ball syringe
If you have a possible perforation, puncture or hole in your eardrum, you should see a doctor before you attempt any OTC remedies. You can cause infection if you put eardrops or other products in your ear when there’s an eardrum perforation. Even washing water through a perforation can cause an infection.
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Can Ear Wax Build
You cant prevent ear wax after all, it has an important job to do. But if you do have trouble with ongoing ear wax build-up, you can try using softening drops regularly to limit it.
See your doctor if:
- your ear hasn’t cleared up after 5 days
- you can’t hear anything
- you have any concerns
You can also use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to help you work out whats happening and what to do next.