Ear Wax Accumulation: What You Should Understand

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. Perhaps when you were a kid you even recall your parents telling you to do it. That’s the kind of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.

But it’s also great advice. Out-of-control earwax accumulation can cause a substantial number of issues, particularly for your hearing. Still worse, this organic substance can solidify in place making it challenging to clean out. In other words, the clearer you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, kind of gross. That’s a viewpoint that most people share. But earwax does serve a purpose. Earwax is made by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dust and dirt.

So your ears will stay clean and healthy when they produce the ideal amount of earwax. It may seem weird, but earwax doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.

The problems start when your ears produce too much earwax. And it can be somewhat difficult to know if the amount of earwax being produced is healthy or too much.

What does excess earwax do?

So, what kind of impact does excess earwax have? There are several problems that may develop as a result of out-of-control earwax or earwax that accumulates over time. Those problems include:

  • Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends heavily on your inner ear. So when accumulated ear wax causes your inner ear to have issues, your balance can be affected, causing you to feel dizzy.
  • Earache: One of the most common signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, sometimes it can). This usually occurs when earwax is creating pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
  • Infection: Infections can be the outcome of surplus earwax. If fluid accumulates, it can get trapped behind impacted earwax.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re probably suffering from a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.

These are only a few. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of unchecked earwax accumulation. If you wear hearing aids, excess earwax can impede them. This means that you might think your hearing aids are having problems when the real problem is a little bit too much earwax.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

Well, yes it can. One of the most typical issues associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. Usually producing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax accumulates in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting in. The problem normally goes away when the earwax is extracted, and usually, your hearing will return to normal.

But there can be sustained damage caused by excess earwax, especially if the buildup gets severe enough. And tinnitus is also usually temporary but when earwax blockage lingers, long-term damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to protect your hearing. In many cases, earwax accumulation is caused not by excessive production but by incorrect cleaning (for instance, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which will press the earwax further in instead of removing it).

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