Ear Wax Accumulation: What You Should Know

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you take a shower, always remember to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you unavoidably use your “parent voice”. Perhaps you even recall getting that advice as a child. As you get wrapped up in past nostalgia, that sort of memory can take you back to simpler times.

But it’s also excellent advice. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of issues, particularly for your hearing. Still worse, this organic compound can harden in place making it difficult to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clear.

Excessive earwax? Eww!

We get it, earwax is not the most pleasing of materials. That’s an opinion that most individuals share. But it is actually essential for the health of your ears. Earwax is made by glands in your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dust and dirt.

So your ears will stay clean and healthy when they generate the ideal amount of earwax. 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 bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax begins to outweigh its usefulness (literally).

What does excess earwax do?

So, what happens as a result of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, builds up, can cause a number of problems. Those issues include:

  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends heavily on your inner ear. You can suffer from bouts of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having issues.
  • Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. Sometimes, that’s because the earwax can trap fluid where it ought not to be.
  • Earache: One of the most prevalent signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can hurt a lot. This typically happens when earwax is creating pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
  • Tinnitus: When you hear ringing or buzzing that isn’t really there, you’re probably suffering from a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax accumulates inside your ear.

This list is only the beginning. Headaches and pain can occur because of unchecked earwax buildup. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax might make you think your hearing aids are having problems.

Can earwax affect your hearing?

The short answer is yes. One of the most common issues associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. Usually producing a form of conductive hearing loss, earwax builds up in the ear canal, stopping sound waves and vibrations from getting in. The problem usually goes away when the earwax is removed, and usually, your hearing will return to normal.

But if the accumulation becomes extreme, permanent damage can occur. And tinnitus is also normally temporary but when earwax blockage persists, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become an enduring condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to protect your hearing, then it seems logical to keep an eye on your earwax. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most cases (for example, blockage is often caused by cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in instead of getting rid of it).

Frequently, the wax has become hardened, dense, and unmovable without professional treatment. You’ll be capable of starting to hear again after you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct 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.