Ear Wax Buildup: What You Should Understand

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you take a shower, always remember to wash your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Perhaps when you were a child you even remember your parents telling you to do it. As you get caught up in past nostalgia, that sort of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But it’s also excellent advice. Your hearing can be significantly affected by out-of-control earwax. Even worse, this organic compound can solidify in place making it challenging to clean out. In other words, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Okay, earwax isn’t the most appealing of substances. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But earwax does serve a purpose. Produced by specialized glands in your ear and pushed outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.

So your ears will remain clean and healthy when they generate the ideal amount of earwax. However counterintuitive it sounds, the reality is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of bad hygiene.

The troubles start when your ears generate too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a bit challenging to tell when a healthy amount of earwax starts to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What does accumulated earwax do?

So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, builds up, can cause several problems. Those issues include:

  • Earache: An earache is one of the most prevalent signs of excess earwax. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, in some cases it can). This is typically a result of the earwax producing pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re probably dealing with a condition known as tinnitus. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to appear.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can suffer, causing dizziness.
  • Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can get trapped behind plugged earwax.

This list is just the beginning. Neglected earwax can cause painful headaches. If you wear hearing aids, excess earwax can interfere with them. So excessive earwax might make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can earwax impact your hearing?

Well, yes it can. One of the most typical problems connected with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it produces a blockage of sound causing a form of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. Your hearing will usually return to normal after the wax is cleaned out.

But if the buildup becomes severe, permanent damage can develop. The same is true of earwax-caused tinnitus. It’s usually temporary. But the longer the extra 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 an eye on your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. In many instances, earwax buildup is caused not by excessive production but by incorrect cleaning (for example, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which will press the earwax further in rather than removing it).

It will often require professional eradication of the wax that has become hardened to the point that you can’t remove it. The sooner you get that help, the sooner you’ll be capable of hearing again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start 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.