Ear Wax Accumulation: 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 inevitably use your “parent voice”. Maybe when you were a child you even remember your parents telling you to do it. That’s the type of memory that can take you back to simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.

But that advice can be rather helpful. Your hearing can be significantly affected by out-of-control earwax. Even worse, this organic compound can harden in place making it difficult to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, kind of gross. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But earwax does serve a purpose. Produced by specialized glands in your ear and pushed outwards by your jaw’s chewing motion, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.

In other words, the correct amount of earwax can help keep your ears healthy and clean. It might seem peculiar, but earwax doesn’t suggest poor hygiene.

An excessive amount of earwax is where the trouble starts. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax starts to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What does accumulated earwax do?

So, what develops as a consequence of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, accumulates, can lead to several issues. Those issues include:

  • Earache: An earache is one of the most common indications 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 someplace it shouldn’t.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having problems.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is an affliction where you hear a phantom buzzing or ringing in your ears. Earwax buildup can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.
  • Infection: Infections can be the outcome of surplus earwax. Sometimes, that’s because the earwax can trap fluid where it ought not to be.

This list is just the beginning. Neglected earwax can trigger painful headaches. Too much earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you may think your hearing aids are having problems when the real issue is a little bit too much earwax.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

The short answer is yes. One of the most common issues associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it causes 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 accumulation becomes extreme, long term damage can occur. The same is true of 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 risk of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good plan to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most cases (for instance, blockage is frequently a result of cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in rather than removing it).

It will usually call for professional eradication of the wax that has become solidified to the point that you can’t get rid of it. 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.