Glands in the middle of your ear canal produce earwax (also known as cerumen) to trap dirt, dust, and foreign bodies so that they don’t reach your eardrum. Normally, the wax slowly works its way out of your ear on its own.
If you wear earplugs or hearing aids, those devices can push earwax deeper into the ear, where it can’t make its way out. You also may produce more than the normal amount of earwax so that it builds up and clogs your canal.
When you try to clean your own ears with a finger or cotton swab, you actually push the wax more deeply into the canal, so it’s harder to get out. Earwax blockages can cause temporary hearing loss, dizziness, and uncomfortable pressure.
You can learn to clean your ears safely and prevent wax blockages. If you have a lot of earwax or want to make sure you remove it correctly and safely, make an appointment with Wade Han, MD, and our expert team at Florida Ear Nose Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center in Orlando, Florida, and Kissimmee, Florida.
How to tell you have an earwax blockage
You may have a clog of earwax in your canal that doesn’t create any symptoms. Earwax accumulates slowly, so your brain adapts to your changing hearing, which might otherwise be a reliable symptom. Sudden ringing in your ear or ears (i.e., tinnitus) is a reliable indicator, though it’s also a symptom of other conditions or could even be a reaction to a medication.
Too much earwax can make you feel as if your ear is plugged up. The sensation is similar to having a water blockage after swimming. Earwax can also cause:
- Pressure in the ear
- Discharge from the ear canal
These symptoms could be the result of other ear issues, including an ear infection. Unless you’re certain that your symptoms are caused by too much earwax, make an appointment to have your ears checked for a more serious issue.
Take care of your ears
Earwax usually works its way to the ear canal’s outer end because it’s pushed out by new wax production. Chewing and moving your jaw also helps earwax move outward.
If you use a cotton swab to clean your ears, only use them on the outer, visible part of your ear. Never insert a swab or anything else into the ear canal. Doing so can push the wax deeper, even if it appears that you’re removing some wax.
Help the earwax’s natural migration out of the ear by using a warm, wet washcloth to clean the outer ear when you bathe each night. That should be enough to help you shed excess earwax.
Soften your ear wax
Earwax resists water but softens when it contacts other substances, some of which you may already have in your medicine cabinet. Common wax softeners include:
- Mineral oil
- Baby oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Hydrogen peroxide, 3% solution
- ½ teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 ounces of water
Just put several drops of any one of these softeners in your ears once or twice daily, for 5-10 minutes at a time. This should soften your blockage in a day or two, so it can migrate out of your ear. Flush your ear with a bulb of warm water to wash away the softening substance and help the blockage move.
If you don’t see results, or if earwax is a chronic problem, contact us for earwax removal today.