What to Do if You Have Earwax Buildup

It's important to know how to deal with excessive earwax build-up in your ears. In this article, we give our top (home and professional) recommendations.

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Earwax is seen as one of the more polarizing and seemingly unnecessary substances produced by our bodies. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much point in earwax other than the need to clean it out.  However, many medical professionals and hearing specialists will agree. There is clear evidence that earwax helps protect our ears and our hearing. Earwax plays a massive role in maintaining the health of our auditory system! Here are a few reasons why we shouldn't be so quick to get rid of our earwax.


How earwax helps us.


Cerumen, the medical name for earwax, comprises sweat, oil, dead skin cells, and some dirt from the environment. That may sound like an off-putting combination, but it's one of our most useful bodily excretions!  

Here is what earwax does for your ears:

It's a natural barrier. Earwax traps things like dirt and harmful bacteria from getting into our ear canals. If left without earwax, the inner parts of our ears are at risk of infections and other damaging substances. Earwax's sticky composition acts as a trap for microscopic debris. It's important to remember that this protective layer is part of the body's natural defense system.

It's a moisturizer. Without earwax, the outer ear and canal may be prone to being dry, flaky, and itchy—just like our skin if we don't drink enough water. The protective coating ensures that our ear canals are less susceptible to irritation and, ultimately, infection.

It's an insect repellant. The scent of earwax is a natural repellent for most insects, and the stickiness also helps trap the ones that try to sneak in.


You need a certain amount of earwax


Although many people believe that earwax needs to be regularly cleaned out with a cotton swab, the opposite is true. Most people produce earwax at a rate that provides adequate coverage for the membranes while allowing older cerumen to dry and flake off imperceptibly before blocking the canal and causing a hearing loss. In fact, ear wax will interfere with hearing only if it is completely blocking the canal. The act of removing earwax (for example, using a cotton swab) actually signals your body to produce more, resulting in an over-abundance that can cause hearing problems and put you at risk for ear infections and other complications.

What to do if you have excessive earwax


While earwax is healthy for ear health, you can and should clean your ears! Earwax build-up and blockages can happen if we completely ignore ears. So here are a few things tokeep in mind to keep your ears both clean and healthy:


Things to Avoid:


●      Cotton swabs, hairpins, or other sharp instruments: Don't use these to clean your ears, as they are significant contributors to blockages because they can push earwax back into the canal. Earwax impactions or blockages can contribute to conductive hearing loss when earwax prevents sound from reaching the inner ear properly. Moreover, you risk puncturing your eardrum!

●      Ear Candling: The popular trend of "ear candling" to remove earwax has been shown to have no real benefits. Also, there is no evidence that it removes earwax. Ear candling can cause severe damage like burns, wax blockages, punctured eardrums, and other forms of injury, both mild and severe.


And here is more information on how not to clean your ears.


Those were some of the don'ts for ear care, but here are some ways to help keep your ears clean and healthy.


Here are some tips we recommend:


●      Wash with warm, soapy water: A warm soapy washcloth is a great way to wash your ears. If done every now and then, this can keep ears from having too much earwax build-up. Also, if you let warm water run into your ears the next time you're in the shower, it can help loosen extra earwax.

●      Home cleaning kits: Over-the-counter ear cleaning kits are also available at pharmacies if you feel you need to do amore rigorous cleaning at home. Be sure to read directions thoroughly and clean your ears carefully. For those with hearing aids, make sure all tubes and other hearing device pieces are entirely removed. Don't know what ear cleaning kit to buy? Talk to us for a recommendation!

●      Regularly see a hearing professional: Scheduling an annual hearing test and check-up with us is the best way to monitor your ear health! Getting your ears checked by an Audiologist on an annual basis can track your hearing health. We will also be able to check your ears for blockages and safely remove them.  


Even though earwax is one of those unpleasant bodily functions, we hope we've demonstrated just how essential it is for your health, as well as how to safely remove it. Contact us for more information today and to schedule earwax removal or a hearing test.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Cliff Olson
Founder & Audiologist
Read full bio

Dr. Cliff Olson is an Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona. A former Marine Corps Scout Sniper, he left the military to earn his Audiology doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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