Your skin has sunscreen to protect it. Your car uses air bags to protect you. And your ears create earwax to protect the delicate and important organs nestled within your ear canals. But even though it’s meant to be a help to your body, earwax (or cerumen) can become a problem if too much is being produced or if you’re trying to clean it out improperly. Dr. Andrew Diamond discusses why earwax should sometimes be removed and some signs/symptoms for you to look for.
When Earwax Should be Removed
Most people will create and expel the right amount of earwax for the majority of their life, but if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment:
- Earache, fullness in the ear, or a sensation the ear is plugged
- Partial hearing loss, which may be progressive
- Tinnitus, ringing, or noises in the ear
- Itching, odor, or discharge
These symptoms likely indicate a cerumen impaction, the accumulation of an excessive amount of earwax. Leaving an impaction in your ear canal could result in an infection, due to your ear’s inability to drain out harmful bacteria. Impacted earwax can also adhere to and accumulate surrounding skin, balling everything together and leading to an unnecessarily painful extraction.
How You Should Remove Earwax
Never use a Q-Tip to remove earwax buildup! Those seemingly helpful cotton buds are the enemy of ENT doctors, as they actually push in twice as much earwax as they remove. This is a fast-ticket to earwax impaction and infection. So, what can you do for relief at home? Dr. Diamond suggests using a softening agent on the earwax buildup to see if you can dislodge the earwax enough that it will drain out on its own. There may be instances, however, where softened earwax will flow further into the ear canal rather than flow out, at which point you will need to schedule an earwax extraction at the risk of your symptoms returning or an infection starting.
There are earwax vacuums available for home use, but they are not nearly as powerful as the vacuums used in your doctor’s office, so they will likely not give you the same level of relief. If your earwax is badly impacted, the vacuum will not have any effect.
The safest and most effective way to remove earwax is to see your ENT doctor. They can evaluate your impaction and thoroughly and safely extract the troublesome buildup. Every patient is different; some may only need an extraction down once in their life, and others may need to have cleanings scheduled every three months. Working with your doctor will ensure that your ears are kept clean and operating the way they should.
If you suspect you’re suffering from an earwax impaction, please contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors!