Earwax build-up

Your ears are amazing organs and so too is the yellow waxy substance they produce to ensure your ears are kept clean and healthy.

You may just think of earwax as that unsightly goo that sits in your ear that you are keen to get rid of. But it is essential in protecting your ears and keeping out any harmful dirt or debris. But sometimes you can develop a build-up of earwax which can be uncomfortable or even painful, affect your hearing, and lead to various other ear problems.

Here are some useful facts on earwax and what you can do if you have earwax build-up.

What is earwax?

Your ear canal produces a waxy oil substance called cerumen, better known as earwax, to protect the ear from dirt, dust and foreign particles that could damage the ear. It also protects the skin in the ear canal from irritation from water. Excess earwax produced by your body will normally find its way out of your ear canal into the ear where it is then washed away.

Causes of earwax build-up

An earwax blockage is most likely to happen after you have attempted to remove the earwax yourself using a finger or cotton swab and inadvertently pushed the wax deeper into the ear. You are also more likely to experience a build-up of wax if you have narrow or hairy ear canals, have eczema in your ear or use earplugs, hearing aids or earphones regularly as this can stop the wax from being able to come out of the ear. which can inadvertently stop earwax from being able to come out of the ear.

An important aspect to consider in the context of earwax build-up is the potential influence of dietary habits. Certain foods can cause ear wax. Particularly those high in dairy products such as milk, butter, and cheese, have been associated with an increased production of earwax in the ear canals. Consuming these items in excessive quantities may contribute to the overproduction of earwax, possibly exacerbating the risk of blockages.

Signs of earwax build-up

Earwax can vary in colour from person to person, so if you have dark-coloured earwax, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a blockage. If you don’t remove earwax build-up you risk developing one of several potential ear diseases such as an ear infection or tinnitus. Common signs of earwax build-up include:

  • A temporary sudden or partial hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • A feeling of fullness in your ear
  • Earache
  • Discharge or odour from the ear
  • Dizziness
  • A fever or cough
  • Ear crackling

Dizziness, hearing loss, and earache can be caused by something else other than a blocked ear. If these symptoms persist or you are worried about your ears you should see your doctor.

How to remove earwax

Never use your fingers, cotton swabs, or any other object for earwax removal. This can cause serious damage to your ear and push the wax deeper down into your ear.

There are several treatments for clogged ears that remove earwax, for example:

  • Ear drops: These are used several times a day over a few days to soften the earwax so it can fall out on its own
  • Ear irrigation: A quick procedure that involves an electric pump to push water into your ear and flush out the earwax
  • Micro-suction: A small vacuum-type device is used to suck out the earwax from your ear
  • Aural toilet: A thin instrument with a small hoop scrapes out the earwax and cleans your ear
  • Ear candles: An earwax removal candle is inserted into the ear to pull the wax out of your ear canal. However, this can cause punctured eardrums or burns to the ear and face, so should only be done under medical advice.

Not all of these treatments will be suitable for everyone. It’s a good idea to get medical advice about what treatments may work best for you.

If you have any concerns about your hearing health, schedule a consultation with a hearing care professional or your doctor for advice on the appropriate treatment.

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