Your ears are delicate, complex mechanisms, made of up multiple working parts and hundreds of sensitive nerve endings. It should come as no surprise that your body has provided a way for your ears to protect themselves: ear wax.
Ear wax is the simple name for cerumen, the waxy oil-like substance produced in your ears. It helps to trap dust, debris, microorganisms, and particles, preventing them from irritating or infecting the skin of your ear canal. It also helps to coat your ear canal with a waterproof lining that reduces the risk of water causing infections.
However, there is “too much of a good thing“. Excessive ear wax production can lead to ear wax buildup, which can lead to ear problems like infection, hearing loss, and more. This article will take a look at:
- What ear wax build up is and what causes ear wax build up in the first place
- How to recognize the signs of ear wax build up symptoms
- How to get rid of ear wax build up (including how to remove ear wax build up at home)
- What the best way to remove ear wax build up is
- and more…
By the end of this page, you will know everything there is to know about ear wax build up and what you can do about it!
What is Ear Wax Build Up?
Ear wax, as you read above, is a substance naturally produced in your ears. The ceruminous glands of your outer ear canal secrete cerumen, which then mixes with dead skin cells and skin oil (sebum) to produce the waxy, oily stuff you call ear wax.
When the glands produce too much ear wax (read the next section to find out what causes ear wax build up), the excess wax tends to dry out, harden, and block the ear canal.
This stops the ear from cleaning itself, as it’s designed to do. The wax accumulates until you need to do something to deal with the problem.
What are the Symptoms of Ear Wax Build Up?
How can you know if you are suffering from an excess of ear wax? The symptoms of ear wax build up are pretty easy to notice:
the fancy name for a “ringing in your ears“. If your ears tend to ring or buzz, it is usually caused by something in your ears. Ear wax build-up is the most likely cause – though old age, loud noises, and stiffening of your ear bones can also contribute to the problem.
though without any infection you can trace. If you develop earaches regularly or suddenly (with no exposure to pollution, debris, or water), it may be the result of an ear wax ball pressing on the auditory nerve.
- Odd-colored wax
usually a very dark brown. Dark-colored wax isn’t the only indicator of an ear wax buildup, but if your wax is dark, it’s a good sign the wax is filled with debris, dust, dirt, and microorganisms. When this happens, your body will often increase ear wax production, increasing your risk of ear wax build up.
- Hearing loss
either total or partial. The hearing loss will usually happen overnight, or from moment to the next. Don’t worry! The sudden loss of hearing isn’t a permanent problem, but removing ear wax build-up will solve the problem.
- Fullness in your ear
like you have a cotton ball or something thick clogging up the canal. This is a feeling you get when there is a buildup of ear wax. Getting rid of the wax will eliminate the sensation.
All of these symptoms can indicate that you have too much wax building up in your ear. If you notice any of them, it’s a good idea to get your ears checked by your ear doctor. The doctor will tell you if you have an infection, blockage, or ear wax build-up, and you can treat the problem specifically.
What Causes Ear Wax Build Up?
The ear, like all delicate mechanisms, requires a precise balance to function properly. If there is even a single “component” off, problems begin to set in. Ear wax build up is, essentially, one of the ear’s “components” malfunctioning.
Here are some of the things that can cause the problem:
Some people produce more ear wax than normal. It is simple genetics at play; if you have a family history of excessive ear wax or ear problems, you’re likely to develop similar problems.
If there is a lot of dust, debris, pollen, and microorganisms in the air, these particles may get into your ear canal. If this happens, your ear produces more wax–often leading to excessive wax production.
If you listen to loud music or use headphones often, more ear wax will be produced in order to protect your ears. The headphones or earphones may also prevent the ear wax from falling out properly.
If you try to remove ear wax build up incorrectly – using a cotton swab, bobby pins, car keys, pens, or other sharp objects – you may scratch the skin. Your ears will produce more ear wax to prevent irritation and infection.
Even if you don’t scratch the skin, you may push the wax further into the ear canal, preventing your ears’ self-cleaning mechanism from getting rid of the wax.
Some people naturally have problems with producing too much ear wax, which increases their chances of an ear wax build up. Note: Excess wax production doesn’t guarantee a buildup of wax. Your cleaning habits (the way you try to remove ear wax build up yourself) are most likely to cause the problems. Read on to find out how to clean your ears the RIGHT way…
Note: Excess wax production doesn’t guarantee a buildup of wax. Your cleaning habits (the way you try to remove ear wax build up yourself) are most likely to cause the problems. Read on to find out how to clean your ears the RIGHT way…
How to Remove Ear Wax Build Up
So, we’ve learned what ear wax build up is, what causes it, and what the symptoms are. Now it’s time to learn how to remove ear wax build up the right way – meaning the SAFE way, that won’t cause more wax build up or damage to your ears.
Removing ear wax build up is a delicate process, one that should be handled with a great deal of care. The best way to remove ear wax build up: visit your doctor! They’ll irrigate your ear canal using saline, warm water, or hydrogen peroxide, flushing the wax out of your ears effectively. This is the more efficient, and safest way to solve the problem.
For those who prefer to avoid ear irrigation, you have another option: medicated drops. These over-the-counter drops are available at every pharmacy, and they will help to soften the ear wax, kill off bacteria, and protect your ears from infection. They will help your ears’ self-cleaning mechanism deal with the problem. These ear drops for wax build up are both cheap and highly effective.
If you’d rather deal with the problem without the use of medications, here are a few options to consider:
Warm Mineral Oil
Heat mineral oil in a spoon and place a few drops into your ear. The oil will reduce inflammation or infection and soften your ear wax, allowing it to drain out of your ear on its own. You may need to repeat the irrigation a few times if your ears are very blocked.
Hydrogen peroxide is effective at softening your ear wax, making it easy for the wax to drain on its own. Repeated use of the peroxide can irritate the skin of your ear canals, so use it sparingly.
As with any home remedies, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before trying them. If not performed correctly, they can cause damage to your ear canal, increasing your risk of infection, irritation, and further wax build up.
How to Prevent Ear Wax Build Up
You know that old proverb: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simply put, this means it’s better to take steps to prevent ear wax build up than to figure out how to get rid of the blockage once it’s there.
Here are a few simple things you can do to stop ear wax from building up:
Perform a bi-weekly cleanse
Every two weeks, flush your ears with hot water (in the shower), ear drops, hydrogen peroxide, or mineral oil. Regular cleaning will help to prevent ear wax buildup effectively.
Use the Oto-Tip
The Oto-Tip is the ideal product for those with excess wax production. It’s a safe, effective daily ear cleaning option, and you can get rid of ear wax without increasing your risk of irritation or infection.
Protect your ears
Limit your use of headphones, ear-buds, and ear plugs. Protect your ears with cotton balls when showering. Stay indoors when there is a lot of dust, dirt, debris, or pollen in the air.
Avoid incorrect cleaning
Keep anything sharp and pointed (like car keys, bobby pins, your fingernails, cotton swabs) out of your ear. They only push the wax deeper into your ear and increase your risk of injury, irritation, and inflammation.
Ear wax build up is a simple problem, one that can be prevented easily. Follow the advice above to protect your ears and reduce your risk of ear wax build up.
A few simple preventive measures can go a long way towards keeping your ears healthy and clean!