Audiology Advances

Ear Wax Impaction – What is Ear Wax Impaction and How Can It Be Prevented?

Ordinarily, earwax forms and falls off naturally over time; however, when it becomes impure or build-up occurs it must be addressed quickly to maintain optimal hearing health. For this purpose health care providers use cerumenolytic agents which soften and dissolve the buildup before extracting it out.

Avoid cleaning your ears using cotton swabs or other objects, as this can push wax deeper into your ear canal and result in an impaction. Treatment options include manual removal, irrigation and medication.

Ear Wax Impaction Causes

Earwax (cerumen) plays an essential part in maintaining good ear health. It helps clean, protect and lubricate the ear canal while also aiding hearing. Earwax typically forms in the ear canal before slowly migrating toward its opening where it will either wash away with fluid from outside or fall out as new wax forms to replace old. Sometimes however, some wax becomes trapped inside and causes issues like aural fullness (feeling of a blockage), tinnitus and hearing loss.

Although earwax impaction can usually be prevented, it still happens occasionally for various reasons. Patients should be educated on how to care for their ears properly, including safely removing earwax. They should also avoid reaching for it with cotton swabs, Q-Tips or similar items as this may only push it deeper into their ear canal or, in extreme cases, even perforate the eardrum.

Patients with narrower ear canals, children under the age of 12, adults over 55, those who wear hearing aids or earplugs, those living with skin conditions like eczema, hearing aid users or those wearing hearing aids/earplugs and those who have worn hearing aids/earplugs in the past and those who have experienced trauma to the ear canal may all be more at risk of impaction of earwax. Also at increased risk is anyone who has had previous ear infections or experienced trauma to the canal in past experiences or had previous infections/trauma history which results in trauma to their canal being compromised in this way.

Regularly rinsing ears with water or saline solution can help reduce earwax build-up. A rubber bulb syringe filled with warm water or saline solution should be used to rinse out ear canal. When using wax-softening drops first, additional softening drops may also help. It is wise not to attempt removing earwax using irrigation or other methods, as doing so could actually result in more serious complications called tympanic membrane perforation.


Your body naturally produces earwax to protect and keep your ear canal clean, but sometimes too much wax accumulates and becomes impactioned, potentially leading to hearing loss or dizziness.

Earwax impaction is more prevalent among children than adults, possibly because their ears have larger canals or they use headphones or earbuds more frequently. Earwax impaction may also be the result of dry skin conditions like eczema or age causing hard and flaky earwax that clogs ears more easily; or health complications, such as perforations in the eardrum or holes on either side of the head (called choledochomeres).

Hearing loss or dizziness are the two most evident symptoms of an impacted earwax build-up; however, other symptoms include pain in the ears (including tinnitus), blocked nasal passages when lying down for sleep and even tender or swollen earlobes.

Health care providers can identify any swollen or impacted earwax by visually inspecting the ear canal. Once found, they can treat symptoms by softening and flushing out excess wax from your ears as well as offering over-the-counter earwax removal products; they do not advise reaching into your own ear with cotton swabs or other objects for self-treatment purposes.

Earwax should never be seen as the enemy; in fact, some is beneficial to your ears. But trying to remove earwax on your own can cause lasting damage to both ear canal and eardrum if done incorrectly – leaving an attempt at self-extraction for too long may even worsen symptoms!


Nature offers the most effective solution for earwax impaction. Earwax was meant to move out of its natural place on its own; drying and becoming more flexible allows it to fall away more readily than it otherwise would. Unfortunately, for some individuals this process may be delayed or prevented altogether, leading to the accumulation of impacted earwax deposits.

People suffering from earwax impaction often exhibit symptoms, including earache or hearing loss, which indicate their earwax has built up and blocked the ear canal. If these symptoms go unchecked, earwax could compact into hard lumps that lead to infection (or swimmer’s ear) in due course.

Physicians may recommend at-home treatments to soften earwax and promote its natural expulsion from the ear canal, generally recommended for people who have narrow ear canals, tend to form blockages of earwax or are at greater risk due to age, genetics or conditions such as Otosclerosis.

Home remedies include placing several drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin or commercial wax-softening drops in each ear several times each week. Physicians may advise their patients to tilt their head while bathing or showering to allow earwax to naturally drain out.

However, The Cleveland Clinic emphasizes the importance of consulting a healthcare provider first when considering at-home treatments. A healthcare provider will be able to determine if your earwax buildup is related to another condition or symptom such as an ear infection, allergies, cold or flu symptoms, skin conditions such as dermatitis or even an allergy reaction. An otoscope allows them to view inside your ear canal and eardrum more clearly so they can determine which kind of treatment may be necessary; in addition some healthcare providers may use special instruments in order to remove excess earwax, though only trained professionals should attempt this as doing it yourself could damage both structures causing permanent harm.


Earwax (cerumen) is a natural, protective substance produced by your ears to keep them clean. When left untouched, however, earwax can build up and become impacted, leading to pain, itching, ringing in the ears or hearing loss symptoms. You can help prevent impacted earwax by not touching your ear canal with cotton swabs or candles intended to remove it; these methods push more of it deeper into the canal leading to blockages; rather regularly check for signs of earwax to allow nature do its work on its own process of unblockage removal by giving natural processes a chance.

Regular movements of the ear canal, like those caused by chewing and talking, help move earwax from its original position to where it dries up and eventually falls out of your ears. Over-the-counter oil-based softening drops may also be beneficial – these should be applied twice daily as directed or whenever desired.

If you find that your ears become subject to earwax impaction, be sure to consult your healthcare provider about scheduling regular screening exams with an otoscope. These examinations take only minutes in office and can tell whether there’s an earwax issue that needs removal.

Never attempt to remove earwax yourself as this could damage both the ear canal and eardrum. If you find that you frequently develop an earwax buildup, consult your healthcare provider about ways to stop it accumulating. They may recommend over-the-counter earwax removal drops that soften and break up hard earwax buildup or an irrigation technique using water or saline solution delivered via bulb syringe irrigation technique – though be mindful not to use water irrigation if your eardrum is damaged due to recent surgery – instead consult with them regarding options that will best assist your health care provider during this process!

About the Author

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Ben Horlock Audiologist

Ben Horlock RHAD MHSAA, is an accomplished audiologist deeply committed to delivering remarkable audiological services.

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