What You Need to Understand About Earwax Buildup

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t forget to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you inescapably use your “parent voice”. Perhaps when you were a kid you even remember your parents telling you to do it. That’s the kind of memory that can take you back to simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.

But it’s also great advice. Your hearing can be significantly impacted by an overabundance of earwax. And on top of that, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really hard to clean. In a nutshell, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

We get it, earwax isn’t the most appealing of materials. 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 the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.

In other words, the ideal amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself is not a sign of poor hygiene.

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

What does accumulated earwax do?

So, what happens as a consequence of accumulated earwax? There are several issues that may arise due to out-of-control earwax or earwax that accumulates over time. Those issues include:

  • Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can trap fluid where it shouldn’t be.
  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to have issues, your balance can suffer, causing you to feel dizzy.
  • Earache: An earache is one of the most prevalent indications of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can really hurt. This is normally a result of the earwax producing pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom buzzing or ringing in your ears. Earwax buildup can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of unchecked earwax buildup. Excess earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

Well, yes it can. One of the most common problems associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it produces a blockage of sound causing a form of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. The issue usually clears up when the earwax is eliminated, and normally, your hearing will go back to normal.

But there can be sustained damage caused by accumulated earwax, especially if the buildup gets severe enough. And tinnitus is also usually temporary but when earwax blockage persists, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. It’s incorrect cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most situations (for instance, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which will push the earwax further in rather than getting rid of it).

Often, the wax has gotten hard, thick, and unmovable without professional help. You’ll be capable of starting to hear again after 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.