What You Need to Understand About Earwax Accumulation

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t neglect cleaning your ears. It’s difficult not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe you even remember getting that advice as a child. That’s the kind of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.

But it’s also excellent advice. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of problems, especially for your hearing. And on top of that, earwax can solidify inside your ear and become really difficult to clean. In a nutshell, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

Earwax is, well, sort of gross. That’s an opinion that most individuals share. But earwax does have a purpose. Produced by specialized glands in your ear and churned outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.

Essentially, the correct amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of bad hygiene.

The problems start when your ears generate too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit challenging to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax begins to outweigh its advantages (literally).

What is the impact of excess earwax?

So, what happens as a result of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, accumulates, can cause a number of issues. Here are a few:

  • Earache: One of the most common signs of excess earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, in some cases it can). This usually occurs when earwax is causing pressure in places that it shouldn’t be.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends greatly on your inner ear. You can suffer from bouts of dizziness and balance problems when your inner ear is having trouble.
  • Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can get trapped behind plugged earwax.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom buzzing or ringing in your ears. Earwax buildup can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to emerge.

These are only a few. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of unchecked earwax accumulation. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So excessive earwax might make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can your hearing be affected by earwax?

The short answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most common issues linked to excess earwax. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it causes a blockage of sound causing a kind of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. Your hearing will typically return to normal after the wax is cleared out.

But if the accumulation becomes severe, long term damage can happen. 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 protect your hearing, then it makes sense to keep an eye on your earwax. In many cases, earwax accumulation is caused not by excessive production but by improper cleaning (for example, blockage is frequently a result of cotton swabs, which tend to press the earwax further in rather than getting rid of it).

It will often require professional removal of the wax that has become hardened to the point that you can’t get rid of it. 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.