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Everything you Need to Know About Impacted Ear Wax

Home » Doctor's Blog » Everything you Need to Know About Impacted Ear Wax

Doctor Ear Examination on patient

Known as cerumen in medical terms, earwax is a sticky substance formed in the outer part of the ear canal. It contains dead skin cells and hair, as well as discharge from two different glands. Its sticky nature traps microscopic debris and prevents dirt from entering the innermost parts of your ears, serving as a defensive barrier to protect your inner ear from infection, injury, water, and external objects. In addition, earwax also acts as a moisturiser for your ear canal to minimise itchiness and flakiness. 

Nonetheless, excessive wax buildup can cause impacted ear wax and block your ear canal. Some people often try to perform ear wax removal on their own by using cotton swabs. This is not recommended as earwax is pushed deeper into the ear, potentially causing more blockage.

Earwax buildup can also result from number of health conditions such as: 

  • Infectious disease, for instance, external otitis
  • Eczema and other skin diseases
  • Bony blockage (osteoma or exostoses)
  • Autoimmune disease like lupus
  • Narrowed ear canal (resulting from birth, injury, or chronic inflammation)

Should you suffer from impacted earwax, gradually experiencing one to two of the symptoms listed below is common. 

The most common symptoms of impacted earwax are:

  • Cough
  • Decreased hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Ear pain
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Plugged or fullness sensation

Leaving this condition untreated may cause more severe symptoms, which could also be indicative of an infection. 

Be cautious if you have any of the following intense symptoms: 

  • Drainage from the ear canal
  • Odour coming from the ear
  • Severe pain
  • Fever 

When should you seek medical consultation for earwax? 

You should visit a ear specialist in Singapore immediately if you experience any of the following: 

  • Persistent high fever or vomiting
  • Sudden loss of hearing
  • Severe spinning sensation, loss of balance or inability to walk

How do doctors diagnose impacted earwax?

During diagnosis, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and collect information regarding your health history. After which, an otoscope will be used to examine the wax in your ear, coupled with some simple hearing tests.

Cotton buds not for ear wax cleaning

Treatment options

When it comes to treatment options regarding impacted earwax, it is recommended to visit an ent clinic in Singapore for professional advice. Your doctor will propose suitable treatment solutions based on  your age, general health, severity of your earwax condition, and symptoms. 


Microsuction is a quick and painless procedure to manually remove wax. It is the most commonly employed technique. All that is required is a small device to suck the earwax out of your ear. This technique is carried out under direct vision and thus can be applied in clinical scenarios, in case of contraindicated irrigation.


  • The process is quicker than irrigation
  • Does not expose the ear canal to moisture

2. Ear irrigation 

Irrigation involves the use of an electric pump to push water into your ear and flush the earwax out. The gentle force of the water softens and breaks up the earwax. While performing ear irrigation, specialists in-charge will also pause several times to examine your ear and check whether the wax is moving. 


  • Quick process (less than 30 minutes each ear)
  • Ensures complete cleanliness of ears

3. Eardrops 

Some health care providers will prescribe ear drops or other earwax-softening agents for patients. This is usually used a few times daily to soften the earwax and allow it to fall out on its own. However, do take note that it is not recommended for those with ear infections unless a health care provider suggests so.


  • Easy to perform
  • Painless

How to prevent earwax buildup and blockage?

Producing earwax is a natural bodily process that only causes issues when excessive buildup occurs. To prevent impacted ear wax, avoid sticking anything into your ears to clean them. Cotton swabs should only be used to clean the outside of the ears along with water or ear drops to soften earwax. If necessary, contact your healthcare provider to obtain the right instruments for earwax removal.

Keeping your ears clean is crucial. Should you suffer from ear pain, constant itching or odour, do see a health care provider immediately to determine if you have an earwax impaction or infection.

Looking for options to combat impacted earwax? Our team at ENT surgeons is here to help. With over 15 years of experience, ENT specialist, Dr Dennis Chua treats different ENT conditions. Contact us today to find out more.

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