What You Need to Understand About Earwax Buildup

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you take a shower, always remember to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you inevitably use your “parent voice”. Maybe you even remember getting that advice as a kid. As you get wrapped up in past nostalgia, that kind of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But that advice can be rather helpful. Your hearing can be significantly impacted by out-of-control earwax. And additionally, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really difficult to clean. In a nutshell, the clearer you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Okay, earwax is not the most appealing of materials. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But it’s actually important for the health of your ears. Produced by special glands in your ear and pushed outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.

Essentially, the correct amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it sounds, the truth is that earwax itself is not a sign of poor hygiene.

The problems begin when your ears generate too much earwax. And, naturally, it can sometimes be a little bit challenging to tell when a healthy amount of earwax begins to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What is the impact of excess earwax?

So, what happens as a consequence of accumulated earwax? There are several issues that may arise as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that builds up over time. Here are a few:

  • Earache: One of the most common signs of excess earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that much, and other times it can hurt a lot. This typically happens when earwax is causing pressure in places that it shouldn’t be.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear ringing or buzzing that isn’t really there, you’re probably dealing with a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can show up or get worse when earwax accumulates inside your ear.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance problems when your inner ear is having problems.
  • Infection: Infections can be the consequence of surplus earwax. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it ought not to be.

These are just a few. Ignored earwax can trigger painful headaches. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

The quick answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent issues connected to excess earwax. Normally producing a form of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, stopping sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. The issue usually clears up when the earwax is extracted, and normally, your hearing will go back to normal.

But there can be long-term damage caused by accumulated earwax, especially if the buildup gets severe enough. The same goes for earwax-related tinnitus. It’s normally not permanent. But the longer the extra earwax sticks around (that is, the longer you neglect the symptoms), the greater the risk of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good idea to keep track of your earwax if you want to protect your hearing. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that leads to buildup in most instances (a cotton swab, for instance, will often compact the earwax in your ear rather than getting rid of it, eventually leading to a blockage).

Often, the wax has gotten hard, thick, and unmovable without professional treatment. You’ll be able to start hearing again as soon as you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the right way.


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.