Earwax blockage: symptoms, Causes and treatment

Earwax is a self-cleaning agent your body produces. It collects dirt, bacteria, and other debris. Usually, the wax works its way out of the ears naturally through chewing and other jaw motions. Many people never need to clean their ears. Sometimes, though, wax can build up and affect your hearing. When earwax reaches this level, it’s called Impaction.

Symptoms of Earwax Blockage

The symptoms of earwax blockage include:

  • Feelings of fullness in the ear
  • Reduced or muffled hearing
  • An earache
  • They may also signal another medical problem, like an infection\

Risk Factors

You may be more likely to develop excess wax if your use hearing aids or ear plugs. Older adults and people with developmental disabilities are also at higher risk. Your ear canal’s shape may make the natural removal of wax difficult.

Causes of Earwax Blockage

Some people are prone to produce too much earwax. Still, excess wax doesn’t automatically lead to blockage. In fact, the most common cause of earwax blockage is at-home removal. Using cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects in your ear canal can also push wax deeper, creating a blockage.

How to get rid of Earwax Blockage

You should never attempt to dig out earwax buildup yourself. This can cause major damage to your ear and lead to infection or hearing loss. Only use cotton swabs on the outer portion of your ears if necessary.

Earwax softening

Many pharmacies sell over-the-counter eardrops that soften wax. These drops are typically a solution. They may contain: mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and saline. Place the specified number of drops into your ear, wait a certain amount of time, and then drain or rinse out your ear. Always follow the instructions on the package.


You may also choose to irrigate your ears using a syringe. In this process, you’ll gently rinse out the ear canal using water or a saline solution. This method is often more effective if you first use some type of wax softener 15 to 30 minutes before irrigating.

It’s best to warm the solution to your body temperature to avoid dizziness.

What NOT to do

  • If you’re using small items, like bobby pins, cotton swabs, or napkin corners, you may push the wax deep into the ear canal. Once wax builds up, it can become impacted. The rule you’ll hear from most doctors is to not put anything smaller than your elbow inside of your ear. In other words, don’t use sharp objects, cotton swabs, or anything else that could potentially injure your eardrum and permanently damage your hearing.
  • You shouldn’t attempt to irrigate your ears if: you have diabetes, you have a compromised immune system, you may have a hole in your eardrum, you have tubes in the affected ear.
  • Ear candles are another option you should avoid. The long, cone-shaped candles are inserted into the ear canal and then lit on fire to draw wax upward with suction. The fire can injure you, or you can accidentally get wax from the candle inside of your ear.

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