A build-up of ear wax may cause dulled hearing among other symptoms. Earwax is the ear’s way of cleaning itself and keeping the skin healthy. The wax, also known as cerumen, is excreted from glands in the ear canal, after which tiny hairs move it out to the entrance. Along the way it picks up any dirt and debris. The earwax we see is a combination of dead cells, hair, dirt, dust and cerumen
Flakes or crusts of earwax break off and fall out of the ear from time to time. Jaw movements such as talking and chewing help massage the wax out of the canal and into the outer ear where it can drop out. You don’t need to help this process along, apart from giving the outer ear the occasional wipe with a face cloth in the shower. However, make sure that you’re not overzealous. Too-frequent cleaning can strip the protective wax from the ear canal lining, leaving it exposed to moisture and vulnerable to infection.
Ironically, our ears may get blocked because people don’t understand that the wax is trying to get out and they end up poking it back in with a cotton bud, causing the wax to impact inside the ear. Also some of us are more likely to have blockages for a range of reasons including:
- Narrow or hairy ear canals.
- Age - earwax becomes drier as we get older.
- A tendency to produce a lot of earwax or hard earwax.
- Skin conditions of the scalp.
- Repeated ear infections.
- Hearing aids.
- Wearing ear buds or ear plugs for long periods can also interfere with earwax exiting but this won’t push it too far back into the canal.
If you’re ears are blocked you may experience mild deafness, earache, tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, dizziness, or you may have a sensation of fullness in the ear. The last symptom isn’t always due to wax - if you have a cold, it could be mucous that’s causing the symptoms.
So how do help to unblock your ears and clear the wax? The safest way is to buy ear drops from the pharmacist. Drip a few into the ear, lie on your side with the treated ear upside for a few minutes, then tilt your head the other way to let the fluid and wax drain out. You may need to repeat this a few times. Ear Drops available include Waxsol Ear Drops, Ear Clear for Wax Removal, Audiclean Eat Wax Remover, and Cerumol Ear Drops.
If your ears are really blocked, see a GP, who will syringe the wax out or refer you to a clinician who can remove blockages using a special curette or spoon.