Earwax might seem unpleasant or even gross to some, but it performs a crucial role within your ear. Any dirt, dust, debris, or even bacteria that gets into your ear canal will get stuck in the earwax, protecting your ear.
Earwax dries out when dirt or dust gets stuck to it. The dry earwax slowly moves out of the ear canal when you chew or move your jaw. Then it falls out or gets washed away in the shower. This is how your ears naturally clean themselves.
Although mostly innocuous, earwax could sometimes build up in the ear, becoming more common as you age. If this happens to you, you might have several problems. Here are some of the most common ones to be aware of.
When ear wax gets stuck, it can cause pain or a headache in the ear that is affected. This can happen if your body keeps making wax that builds up in your ears and doesn't come out on its own. Most of the time, ear wax buildup doesn't hurt, but if you have an earache, it could mean that you have a lot of wax buildup.
Since this is one of the more common signs of earwax buildup, you should schedule an earwax check as soon as possible with an experienced hearing professional.
A damaged eardrum
If the thin layer of tissue deep in the ear canal that helps protect the middle and inner ear from the outside is damaged, the result is a perforated eardrum. Many different things can cause this, but in the end, most people experience ear pain and temporary hearing loss.
Excessive earwax is linked to a perforated eardrum only when small objects, such as a cotton swab or hairpin, are used to clear the ears. These foreign objects can puncture or tear the eardrum, which is another reason you should treat impacted earwax under the care of a professional.
When earwax builds up, it can cause tinnitus symptoms such as ringing in the ears. This, along with a full feeling in the ear, pain, or even feeling dizzy, are all signs that you may have impacted earwax that needs to be treated.
How does this happen? Instead of too much earwax changing the way sounds travel through the ear canal and making tinnitus sounds, the pressure from the impacted wax stimulates nerve cells in your middle and inner ear. Your brain interprets the signals from these excited nerves as noise, which can cause tinnitus.
Too much earwax can block the ear canal and stop sound waves from traveling from the outer ear to the inner ear. Caused by problems in the ear canal, ear drum, or middle ear; this is called conductive hearing loss.
This kind of hearing loss is often temporary if not paired with sensorineural hearing loss. For example, if stuck earwax is to blame, it can be safely and quickly removed by a professional, resulting in better hearing.
Cleaning your ears safely
The best way to stop ear wax from getting stuck is to clean your ears regularly. Cotton swabs can still be helpful, but you should only use them on the outside of your ear. Using a wet washcloth after a hot, steamy shower works as well. Never put something in your ear canal because it could cause damage that can't be fixed or actually cause impacted earwax through the act of pushing it deeper in your ear.
For a small amount of earwax buildup, over-the-counter ear cleaners work well. Earwax can be broken up well by drops that contain hydrogen peroxide. Lay on your side and add the drops as instructed. Give them about five minutes to loosen up the ear canal. The extra earwax should come out on its own when you sit up. Use a clean tissue or warm washcloth to get rid of the extra.
Mineral oil, baby oil, and even olive oil can soften earwax that has become stuck. Oils soften the earwax, making it easier to come out by itself. Putting drops of mineral or olive oil in the ear is another good home treatment. Then, it would help if you took a warm shower and safely removed the extra earwax around your earlobe with a warm cloth.
When to get help from a professional
If you are unsure whether you have impacted earwax, it never hurts to get a check-up. If earwax is causing a severe blockage, it is best to have a professional remove it. If you don't do anything about it, too much earwax can cause hearing loss, ear pain, and dizziness.
We are happy to offer professional earwax removal in Bradenton & Sarasota under the care of our top-rated Audiologists and Hearing Specialists. We invite you to contact us today to set up an appointment and remove that 'plugged up' feeling!