Earwax vs. Hearing Loss: What You Need To Know

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Earwax is a naturally occurring part of the ear. It’s a mixture of dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and sweat, which all sounds unappealing, but it’s actually all part of a healthy ear canal. The issue is when the earwax builds up. Earwax impactions can cause hearing loss. You might notice everything sounding muffled or has diminished over time. Here’s what you need to know:

What is earwax vs earwax impaction?

Earwax is also known as cerumen. While we try to remove it, especially after a shower, its purpose is to catch any dust, bacteria, and other debris trapping it before it can cause an issue in the canal or the eardrum that could lead to an infection. The earwax moves to the outer ear as you chew, swallow, and talk. This movement is breaking up the earwax so it can be washed or wiped away. Essentially, when the ear is working correctly it’s self-cleaning.

If you produce more earwax than normal, the movement of your jaw is not enough to break up all of the earwax building up. This is where an earwax impaction or blockage happens. With enough build up there’s a chance your hearing will suffer because of it.

What is the impact of earwax blockage?

There are other symptoms that could present themselves when earwax blocks up the canal besides the loss of hearing. Those symptoms are:

woman holding her ear in pain
  • Irritated or itchy ears
  • Having an earache
  • Coughing
  • The ear feels plugged up or full
  • Tinnitus which is a ringing sound in the ear

How can you remove the impacted earwax?

Whether you’re cleaning your ears normally or because of an impaction, never insert cotton swabs or any other small object into your to clean it out. It will end up pushing the wax further into the ear risking damage to the canal, the eardrum, and more. To clean your ears, let the warm water from your shower pool into the ears loosening up the wax so it can naturally be removed. If the wax is impacted, your ENT doctor can safely clean out your ears and help you come up with at-home treatments to safely remove the wax on your own.

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