What You Need to Know About Earwax Accumulation

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you shower, always remember to clean your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Perhaps when you were a kid you even remember your parents telling you to do it. That’s the sort of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.

But that advice can be rather helpful. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of issues, particularly for your hearing. Even worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it challenging to clean out. In a nutshell, the clearer you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

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

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

Too much earwax is where the problem starts. And, naturally, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax begins to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What is the consequence of accumulated earwax?

So, what develops as a consequence of accumulated earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, accumulates, can lead to several problems. Those issues include:

  • Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. You can suffer from bouts of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having problems.
  • Earache: One of the most prevalent signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can hurt a lot. This usually occurs when earwax is creating pressure in places that it shouldn’t be.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is an affliction where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Earwax buildup can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.
  • Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can become trapped behind plugged earwax.

These are only a few. Headaches and pain can occur because of uncontrolled earwax accumulation. If you use hearing aids, excess earwax can impede them. So excessive earwax might make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

Well, yes it can. Hearing loss is one of the most common issues connected to excess earwax. Usually producing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax builds up in the ear canal, stopping sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. The issue usually clears up when the earwax is extracted, and usually, your hearing will go back to normal.

But there can be long-term damage caused by accumulated earwax, particularly if the buildup gets extreme enough. The same goes for earwax-related tinnitus. It’s typically not permanent. But the longer the excess earwax hangs around (that is, the longer you ignore the symptoms), the greater the danger of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to safeguard your hearing, then it makes sense to keep an eye on your earwax. In many instances, earwax accumulation is caused not by excess production but by improper cleaning (for instance, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in rather than getting rid of it).

Frequently, the wax has become hardened, dense, and unmovable without professional help. The sooner you receive that help, the sooner you’ll be able to hear again (and the sooner you’ll be capable of 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.