Ear Wax Accumulation: What You Need to Know

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you shower, always remember to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you inevitably use your “parent voice”. Maybe when you were a child you even recall 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 it’s also great advice. Uncontrolled earwax accumulation can cause a significant number of issues, particularly for your hearing. Even worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it difficult to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Okay, earwax is not the most appealing of substances. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But it’s actually important for the health of your ears. Produced by specialized glands in your ear and pushed outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.

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

Too much earwax is where the problem begins. And it can be fairly difficult to know if the amount of earwax being produced is healthy or too much.

What is the impact of accumulated earwax?

So, what develops as a consequence of excess earwax? There are numerous issues that could arise as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that accumulates over time. Those issues include:

  • Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it shouldn’t be.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear ringing or buzzing that isn’t really there, you’re probably dealing with a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax accumulates inside your ear.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends greatly on your inner ear. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to have issues, your balance can suffer, causing dizziness.
  • Earache: An earache is one of the most prevalent symptoms of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can hurt a lot. This is typically a result of the earwax producing pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of uncontrolled earwax accumulation. Excess earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you may think your hearing aids are having problems when the real issue is a bit too much earwax.

Can earwax impact your hearing?

Well, yes it can. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent problems connected to excess earwax. Usually causing a form of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting in. Your hearing will usually go back to normal after the wax is cleared out.

But there can be sustained damage caused by accumulated earwax, especially if the buildup gets severe enough. And tinnitus is also normally temporary but when earwax blockage persists, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to safeguard your hearing, then it makes sense to keep an eye on your earwax. It’s incorrect cleaning, not excess production that leads to buildup in most cases (a cotton swab, for instance, will often compress the earwax in your ear instead of removing it, eventually causing a blockage).

Often, the wax has become hardened, dense, and unmovable without professional treatment. You’ll be able to start hearing again after you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct 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.