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Is having excessive earwax dangerous?

Earwax is secreted naturally by our ear canals, protecting and lubricating the delicate skin within. Our ear canals are susceptible to bacterial infection and sometimes may exhibit fungal growth, and ear wax helps to prevent those things from happening. However, when ear wax builds up faster than the body can naturally remove it, this causes a blockage in the ear canal known as impacted ear wax.

Impacted ear wax is quite a common condition. It can happen in both the young and old, but generally affects you more as you grow older. As you age, your earwax tends to be less mobile and is generally harder in texture. This is a major cause of hearing loss in the elderly and should not be taken lightly.

What are the symptoms of impacted ear wax? 

Ear wax blockage can occur when cerumen builds up in your ear and cannot be removed naturally by the body. There are many symptoms when someone is affected by impacted ear wax, including:

  • Aching in the ear
  • A feeling of tightness or fullness within the affected ear
  • Tinnitus (sound of ringing in the ear)
  • Loss of hearing in the affected ear
  • Loss of equilibrium or dizziness
Aching in the ear

However, it is important to note that these signs and symptoms are rather common and can be associated to another conditions, such as age-related hearing loss or ear infections. It’s possible that you could be suffering from an alternate condition, so it is important to check with your doctor before jumping to any conclusions. Find out more about excessive earwax here.

Is impacted ear wax dangerous?

Many patients think that having excessive ear wax isn’t a dangerous condition. Many believe that it is simply a gross and greasy condition but doesn’t pose any real threat to a patient’s health. 

In many cases, this is not true.

When impacted ear wax goes untreated, it can cause certain severe and potentially hazardous effects such as vertigo, which increases the risk of someone falling and accidentally harming themselves or others. Hearing loss can also make someone less receptive to external stimuli, such as the sound of an oncoming vehicle. This can lead to potentially dangerous situations, especially for the elderly. It is also the case that the elderly are much more predisposed to suffering from excessive ear wax than younger individuals.

For the elderly, many also suffer from other conditions such as poor vision or other forms of hearing loss. When impacted ear wax is added to other conditions, it can exacerbate the severity of those conditions and pose a deeper threat to someone’s quality of life and safety. Many elderly patients who suffer from conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia will find that having impacted ear wax can worsen their hearing loss and severely impede communication, causing them to become easily frustrated leading to an increase in aggression and unhappiness.

Are home remedies useful for treating impacted ear wax?

One of the greatest misconceptions is that ear wax should be removed manually, either individually or with help of a friend or family member. The reality is that trying to remove ear wax with a tool or by hand can make the condition more severe! By using a tool such as a Q-tip in order to remove ear wax, you run the risk of pushing in the ear wax further and making it harder to be removed. Usually, doctors will recommend that ear wax be left alone rather than removed manually.

What is the right way to treat impacted ear wax?

It is important that ear wax be removed by professional otolaryngologist, or that the patient be educated by a medical professional as to the proper way to treat and remove ear wax before attempting self-treatment. 

Trained doctors can remove excess wax in the ear canal through using a miniscule, specialized instrument known as a curet. There are also machines with suction that can suck out the ear wax without damaging the canal further. Alternatively, some doctors prefer to flush the wax out using a water pick or inject warm water with syringe to flush the ear wax out. Some doctors may opt to use certain medication designed for wax removal to help dissolve the ear wax. These medicines may harm the delicate lining of your ear canal, so only allow a medical professional to administer them to you. If you have issues with excessive earwax, consider visiting Dr. Dennis Chua.

Cerumen Curette
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