What You Should Understand About Earwax Buildup

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you take a shower, always remember to wash your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe you even remember getting that advice as a kid. That’s the type of memory that can take you back to simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.

But that advice can be pretty helpful. Out-of-control earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of issues, particularly for your hearing. And on top of that, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really difficult to clean. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, sort of gross. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But it is actually important for your ear’s health. Earwax is made by glands in your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dust and dirt.

In other words, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears healthy and clean. However counterintuitive it sounds, the truth is that earwax itself is not a sign of bad hygiene.

Too much earwax is where the problem begins. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax starts to outweigh its advantages (literally).

What does excess earwax do?

So, what develops as a consequence of accumulated earwax? There are several problems that could arise as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that builds up over time. Those issues include:

  • Earache: An earache is one of the most common signs of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that much, and other times it can hurt a lot. This is typically a result of the earwax producing pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re usually dealing with a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.
  • 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.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends greatly on your inner ear. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having trouble.

This list is only the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of unchecked earwax accumulation. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you might think your hearing aids are malfunctioning when the real issue is a little bit too much earwax.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

The quick answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most common issues linked to excess earwax. Normally causing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, stopping sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. Your hearing will typically go back to normal after the wax is cleaned out.

But there can be long-term damage caused by excess earwax, especially if the buildup gets extreme enough. And tinnitus is also normally temporary but when earwax blockage lingers, long-term 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 improper cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most instances (a cotton swab, for example, will frequently compact the earwax in your ear rather than removing it, eventually causing a blockage).

Often, the wax has gotten hard, dense, and unmovable without professional help. The sooner you receive that help, the sooner you’ll be able to hear again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start 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.