Impacted Earwax: What to Do About It

    Cerumen Impaction, more commonly known as impacted earwax, is a very common condition that occurs in people of any age. About 2 to 6 percent of Americans have this condition.

    Earwax is a combination of skin cells and glandular secretions that serve to protect the ear against infections by trapping dirt in the ear canal. Some individuals produce very little wax while others produce excessive amount that can lead to blockage. This blockage called cerumen impaction can cause problems if not given the right medical attention.

    It is usually caused by cleaning the outer ear with a cotton bud that pushes the wax down that it causes blockage in the ear canal. Wearing hearing aids can also cause this condition. Overproduction of the earwax can also be triggered by loud noises or infections. In addition to that, certain people with abnormal shape of the ear canal are also more prone to earwax accumulation.

    People who have this often complain about hearing loss symptoms, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), pain in the ear, cough, vertigo and ear itching. To resolve this, the earwax build up can be softened using an oil-based agent like olive oil or baby oil. Pour a few drops into the ear and leave it for a while. This will soften the earwax. There are also over-the-counter products that can be used for such purpose such as Debrox and Murine Ear Drops. You may also try the method of removing earwax using 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution.

    Of course, it would be best to leave the earwax removal to the hands of a professional such as an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist). This is especially if you’re going to use prescription ear drops, as some of these medications cause irritation to the ear and allergic reactions.

    Your doctor will most likely make use of an outer ear irrigation method. In this method, the earwax will be softened through application of drops into the ear canal followed by irrigation with the use of a syringe. The syringe that is attached to a catheter is filled with water that will wash the ear to remove the earwax. Antibiotic ear drops are usually added after the procedure.

    This irrigation technique is effective for most people. However, certain condition make it unsuitable for some people such as for individuals who have had previous ear surgery, those with issues in the ear drum or outer ear, and inflammation/infection in the ear. For these people, the doctor will have to use a curette or vacuum device to remove the accumulated earwax.

    To prevent this problem, avoid using cotton buds and foreign objects when cleaning the outer ear. These items don’t only cause impacted earwax but may also harm the delicate tissues inside the ear that can lead to permanent hearing loss. If you’re going to wear a hearing aid, you should have your ears checked routinely to avoid having this problem.

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