Ear Wax Buildup: What You Should Know

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t neglect cleaning your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Perhaps when you were a kid you even recall your parents telling you to do it. As you get wrapped up in past nostalgia, that sort of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But it’s also excellent advice. Uncontrolled earwax accumulation can cause a substantial number of issues, particularly for your hearing. Still worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it challenging to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, kind of gross. That’s an opinion that most people share. But earwax does serve a purpose. Produced by special glands in your ear and churned outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.

So your ears will stay clean and healthy when they produce the ideal amount of earwax. However counterintuitive it seems, the truth is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of poor hygiene.

The troubles begin when your ears generate too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit challenging to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax begins to outweigh its advantages (literally).

What is the consequence of accumulated earwax?

So, what develops as a consequence of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, builds up, can cause a number of issues. Those problems include:

  • Earache: One of the most common signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can really hurt. This is usually a result of the earwax creating pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
  • Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. Sometimes, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it shouldn’t be.
  • 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.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is vital to your balance. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to have issues, your balance can be affected, causing dizziness.

These are only a few. Neglected earwax can trigger painful headaches. Excessive earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you might think your hearing aids are having problems when the real problem is a bit too much earwax.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

Well, yes it can. One of the most common problems associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. Normally causing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. Your hearing will usually return to normal after the wax is cleared out.

But there can be long-term damage caused by excess earwax, especially if the buildup gets extreme enough. The same is true of earwax-related tinnitus. It’s normally not permanent. But the longer the excess earwax sticks around (that is, the longer you ignore the symptoms), the greater the risk of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good plan to keep track of your earwax if you want to protect your hearing. In many cases, earwax accumulation is caused not by excess production but by improper cleaning (for instance, blockage is frequently caused by cotton swabs, which will push the earwax further in instead of removing it).

It will often call for professional removal of the wax that has become solidified to the point that you can’t remove 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 correct 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.