Our ears are a remarkable environment. The delicate and sensitive systems that work together to allow us to hear are truly spectacular. And it’s not just hearing that our ears play a role in. They also help us to maintain our balance!
With such a sophisticated and sensitive system, our ears have developed ways of maintaining themselves. They clean themselves, and also help to prevent foreign bodies from getting stuck inside our ear canal.
One substance plays a key role in all of this. Earwax. The yellowy, sticky substance in our ears is actually extremely important. However, sometimes it’s possible to have too much earwax. In this kind of situation, earwax can end up being more of a hindrance than a help.
Can Earwax Cause Hearing Loss?
When it comes to hearing loss, there are two primary factors to consider: Is it permanent? Or can it be reversed? One cause of hearing loss that is often overlooked is a build up of earwax, which can block the ear canal.
The ear canal is lined with hair follicles and glands that produce a waxy oil called cerumen. Earwax serves an important function in protecting the ear by trapping bacteria, dust, microorganisms, and other foreign particles.
Earwax also helps to protect the delicate skin in your ear canal from aggravation when water is in the canal. The wax is normally pushed towards the opening of the ear, where it either falls out or is removed by washing.
In some people, the glands produce more wax than can be easily removed from the ear. This extra wax may harden in the ear canal and block the ear. More commonly, wax may block the ear canal if you try to clean the ear and accidentally push wax deeper into the ear canal. This is more frequently seen with people who insert q-tips into their ears – this is a big NO NO!
Symptoms of excess ear wax buildup include:
- Fullness in the ear or a sensation that the ear is plugged
- Noises in the ear (tinnitus)
- Partial hearing loss, which may get worse
At-Home Treatment for Earwax Buildup
If you’re suffering from a buildup of earwax, there are a number of home treatments that may provide some welcome relief. Over the counter ear drops can help to soften built up earwax.
Irrigation is another means of removing the wax. To irrigate your ear, you should use body-temperature water (cooler or warmer water may cause brief, but potentially severe, dizziness or vertigo).
With your head upright, straighten the ear canal by holding the outside ear and gently pulling upward. Use a syringe to gently direct a small stream of water against the ear canal wall next to the wax plug. Tip your head to allow the water to drain. You may need to repeat this several times.
Have a Question? Want to Get Your Hearing Checked? Contact Us Today!
If you suspect that earwax may be interfering with your hearing, we recommend speaking to a hearing specialist. At Hearing, Balance & Speech Center, our hearing care professionals would be happy to give you a hearing assessment. Give us a call on 203-774-5642 to arrange an appointment, or click here to request one online.