The canals in our ears are lined with hair follicles as well as glands that create an oily wax called cerumen, or ear wax. The purpose of this wax is to line the inner surface of the ear canal and protect it by gathering up bacteria, dirt and dust, and miroorganisms. Ear wax also helps to prevent irritation when the delicate skin of the ear canal is exposed to moisture; There is absolutely nothing abnormal or unhealthy about ear wax or the production of it.
Normally, ear wax slowly makes its way to the opening of the ear, where it falls out by itself or is removed when we rinse out our ears. But, the glands in certain people’s ears make more wax than normal. As a result, the wax accumulates and may harden, blocking the ear canal and preventing sound waves from reaching your inner ear. The build-up of ear wax is one of the most common grounds for hearing loss, in persons of any age.
The symptoms of a blockage due to excess ear wax can include feeling as if your ears are clogged up, experiencing a ringing noise (tinnitus), and a partial loss of hearing, which worsens with time. This type of hearing loss is referred to as conductive, since the sound waves are hindered from hitting the eardrum, as opposed to sensorineural, as the result of some biological flaw. Luckily, this grounds for hearing loss is readily identified and remedied.
If the symptoms listed above sound familiar to you, see us in our office where any of our team members can perform painless tests to see whether you do in fact have an excess build-up of ear wax. If this is the case, there are hassle-free treatment options to get rid of the excess ear wax that can be performed either at home, or in the office.
If an audiologist diagnoses you as having earwax blockage, there are steps you can take at home to remove it. One thing not to attempt, however, is to use a cotton swab or Q-tip, which has a tendency to just compress the ear wax, not remove it. A better home treatment is to add drops of glycerin, mineral oil, baby oil, or commercial ear drops to each ear, let them loosen the wax buildup, and then rinse it out using water at body temperature. (Hot or cold water may cause feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) To wash out the ear drops, consider buying one of the bulb-shaped syringes sold by pharmacies, which are designed to make the irrigation process simplier and easier. Do not attempt to use a WaterPik or other jet irrigator created for the teeth because the pressure of the spray might damage the eardrum, and don’t try any form of irrigation at home if you believe that your eardrum has been punctured.
If this doesn’t seem to work to get rid of the accumulation of ear wax, come visit us.