One cause of hearing loss that is sometimes overlooked is excess buildup of wax in the ear canal. Fortunately this cause of hearing loss has a simple solution.
Wax blockage is a temporary obstruction of the ear canal with wax, also called cerumen. The ear canal is lined with hair follicles and glands that produce this waxy oil.
As you are probably aware, ear wax protects the ear by trapping dust, bacteria and other microorganisms. This is one of the body’s defense mechanisms that prevent foreign particles from entering and damaging the ear. Ear wax also helps protect the delicate skin of the ear canal from becoming irritated when water enters the canal. Under normal circumstances, ear wax should usually makes its way to the opening of the ear, where it falls out on its own or is removed by routine washing.
However in some individuals, the glands produce more wax than can be easily removed from the ear. This extra wax may harden in the ear canal and block the ear.
More commonly, wax may block the ear canal if you try to clean the canal with cotton swabs. Cleaning with cotton swabs can actually be counterproductive because it tends to push the waxy buildup deeper into the ear canal. Not good!
Wax blockage is by far one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Symptoms of excess ear wax buildup include:
• “Dull” Earaches.
• A sensation that the ear is plugged and needs to “pop.”
• Noises or “rustling” in the ear (tinnitus).
• Partial hearing loss, or “numbed” hearing.
How to Self-Treat Hearing Loss Due to a Wax Blockage
Ear, nose, and throat doctors recommend using mild treatments such as mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial ear drops to help soften earwax. If you suspect that you may have a hole in your eardrum, however, you should consult a doctor before using such products.
Another method of removing wax is called irrigation. Use body-temperature water, as cooler or warmer water may cause brief but severe dizziness or vertigo. With your head upright, straighten the ear canal by holding the outside ear and gently pulling upward. Use a syringe to gently direct a small stream of water against the ear canal wall next to the wax plug. Tip your head to the side in order to allow the water to drain. If the blockage is bad, you may need to repeat irrigation several times.
Never irrigate the ear if the eardrum may not be intact. Irrigation with a ruptured eardrum may cause severe ear infection or acoustic trauma. Do not irrigate the ear with a jet irrigator designed for cleaning teeth (such as a WaterPik) because the force of the irrigation may damage the eardrum.
After the wax is removed, dry the ear thoroughly. You may use a few drops of alcohol in the ear or a hair dryer set on low to help dry the ear.
When to Contact a Doctor
If you cannot remove the wax plug or irrigation causes discomfort, consult a health care provider, who may remove the wax by:
• Repeating irrigation attempts.
• Gently suctioning the ear canal.
• Using a small device called a curette.
Proper Daily Ear Cleaning Can Avoid Hearing Loss
Maintaining your ear health with proper daily cleaning is key to avoiding hearing loss due to wax blockage. Most of us have used cotton swabs in order to clean our ear canals. However as explained earlier, in many cases cotton swabs can do more harm than good. Cotton swabs tend to push excess wax deeper into the ear canal rather than remove the wax.
Developed out of Stanford University, the Oto-Tip from Clear Ear is a revolutionary new daily ear cleaning tool that solves this problem. The Oto-Tip has a spinning swab that quickly and easily removes excess ear wax. In addition, and unlike cotton swabs, it has a built in safety cap that ensures the tip never goes too deep inside the ear canal.
Hearing loss due to excess wax buildup can easily be solved by employing the Oto-Tip in your daily routine.