Waxy oil called cerumen is produced by the glands lining the ear canal. Normally, it falls out of the ear canal naturally or is removed by washing. Sometimes, the earwax becomes too hard to be cleared naturally. Excessive accumulation of earwax or cerumen in the ear leads to blockage of the ear canal. Wax blocking the ear canal is one of the commonest causes of reversible hearing loss.
Always consult a doctor for removal of earwax since attempts to clear it yourself may only push the wax deeper into the ear canal.
Causes of Earwax
Production of earwax is a protective measure taken by the body to trap and prevent foreign objects like dust, bacteria or other germs from entering and damaging the delicate structures inside the ear. Earwax also protects the skin lining the ear canal from getting irritated by water.
Symptoms of Earwax
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- Ringing, swishing or other types of noises in the ear (tinnitus)
- Decreased hearing in the affected ear. Hearing loss may be severe
Diagnosis and Treatment of Earwax
Earwax can easily by visualised by your doctor using an instrument called otoscope.
A doctor removes impacted earwax with the help of a curette-a small curved instrument. Wax may also be flushed out using a water pick or a rubber-bulb syringe containing warm water.
A number of wax-removal medications are available from medical stores. People often buy them without consulting a doctor. These drops could irritate the delicate skin of the tympanum (ear drum) and ear canal. So always use them only if your doctor advices. Wax removal drops such as carbamide peroxide may be prescribed by a doctor for people with wax blockade as a recurring problem.
Application of a few drops of glycerin or hydrogen peroxide in your ear canal twice a day for up to five days can soften earwax. Baby oil or mineral oil may also be used. Never try to dig the earwax out as it may push the wax deeper.
Self-care measures may harm you if your ear drum is abnormal and has a hole in it. Hence, it is best advised to consult a doctor and better not to attempt to clear the wax yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Which doctor should I visit in case of earwax blockage?
An ENT surgeon is usually consulted when one has the symptoms of earwax blockade. However, any competent general practitioner can be approached for this.
2. Does earwax blockade recur even after removal?
Yes. There are chances that it can recur.
3. What are the complications of earwax blockade?
Remember, earwax protects the ears. However, too much wax blocking the ear can affect your hearing. Serious hearing loss may also occur, which is temporary, and gets corrected following wax removal.
Most of the complications appear to happen due to self-care measures. Unauthorized application of wax-removal drops is common. These may irritate the delicate skin lining the ear canal and ear drum. Troubles also ensue when people with perforated ear drums try to wash out earwax.