Cerumen, also known as earwax, is naturally produced by the glands in the ears to lubricate the ear canals and keep dust and debris from getting too far down in the ear canal.
Cerumen typically clears itself from the ears, but in some instances, it can accumulate and cause a blockage.
Symptoms of EAR WAX blockage include:
- Tinnitus (noise in the ear)
- Hearing loss
- Ear pressure
If a blockage occurs, it may need to be removed. This can be done at home or at your audiologist’s office, depending on the size and severity of the blockage.
How Not to Remove Earwax Buildup
People commonly use cotton swabs to try and remove earwax or dislodge a blockage. However, this can sometimes cause more problems as cotton swabs often push the blockage further down into the ear canal, risking even more damage to the ear.
Cotton swabs themselves can easily be inserted too far into the ear canal, causing damage to your ear and risk of a perforating the eardrum.
Audiologists generally agree that cotton swabs are a bad idea for removing earwax and should only be used on the outer portions of your ear. You should never insert cotton swabs or any small object into your ear canal.
At-Home Earwax Removal
In some instances, your audiologist may send patients home with an at-home earwax removal kit. Earwax removal kits can also be purchased over the counter in most drug stores.
These kits generally consist of a liquid that softens earwax and a small, rubber syringe. You will be given directions on how much and how often to apply the liquid into your ear canals. Bubbling and fizzing sensations in your ears are normal with use. You will then use the syringe to gently flush your ears with warm water to remove the remaining earwax. It may take several days to completely clear an earwax blockage from your ear canal.
Removal at Your aUDIOLOGIST’s Office
If the earwax blockage is more significant, it may need to be removed in your audiologist’s office. Audiologists typically use one of three methods to remove earwax: irrigation, suction, or curettage.
Irrigation is the most common method your audiologist will use to remove blockages. Unlike at-home earwax removal kits, your doctor may use stronger earwax removal medications in conjunction with irrigation. Carbamide peroxide is typically the main ingredient in these medications.
Suction is another common method your audiologist will use to remove blockages. This procedure is performed by using a small vacuum aspirator that gently extracts the earwax through soft suction.
The least common method is curettage removal, which involves the use of a lighted curette. A curette is a long, curved tool that is used to gently scrape cerumen from the ear canal, removing the blockage.
If you experience pain or discomfort as a result of earwax buildup, or suspect you have a blockage, it’s important that you see your audiologist as soon as possible to address the issue.