Ear Wax Buildup: What You Need to Understand

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t forget to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you inescapably use your “parent voice”. Perhaps you even remember getting that advice as a kid. As you get wrapped up in past nostalgia, that sort of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But that advice can be pretty helpful. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of problems, particularly for your hearing. Still worse, this organic compound can solidify in place making it challenging to clean out. In a nutshell, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, sort of gross. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But it’s actually important for your ear’s health. Created by special glands in your ear and churned outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.

Essentially, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of bad hygiene.

The problems start when your ears produce too much earwax. And it can be fairly challenging to know if the amount of earwax being produced is healthy or too much.

What is the impact of accumulated earwax?

So, what develops as a result of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, builds up, can cause a number of issues. Here are a few:

  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends heavily on your inner ear. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance problems when your inner ear is having problems.
  • Earache: One of the most common signs of excess earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can hurt a lot. This is normally a result of the earwax creating pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
  • Infection: Infections can be the consequence of excessive earwax. If fluid accumulates, it can get trapped behind impacted earwax.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is an affliction where you hear a phantom buzzing or ringing in your ears. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.

These are only a few. Neglected earwax can cause painful headaches. Excessive earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

Well, yes it can. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent problems linked to excess earwax. Normally causing a form of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, stopping sound waves and vibrations from getting in. The issue normally goes away when the earwax is eliminated, and normally, your hearing will go back to normal.

But there can be sustained damage caused by accumulated earwax, especially if the buildup gets severe enough. The same goes for earwax-caused tinnitus. It’s usually not permanent. But the longer the excess earwax hangs around (that is, the longer you neglect the symptoms), the bigger the danger 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 incorrect cleaning, not excess production that leads to buildup in most instances (for example, blockage is often caused by cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in instead of removing it).

Frequently, the wax has gotten hard, thick, and unmovable without professional help. You’ll be capable of starting to hear 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.