Ear wax is naturally produced by the body to protect the inside of your ear from water and infection. The earwax has both lubricating and antibacterial properties. Most of the time, the old earwax comes out through the ear canal by motions from chewing and other jaw movements. Earwax moves slowly from the inside to the outside of your ear.
The amount of earwax produced varies from person to person. Sometimes the wax builds up and forms a plug which blocks the ear. In some cases, the wax plug falls out by itself without any treatment. However, at other times, the build-up needs treatment.
What causes earwax build-up?
An excessive build-up of earwax can occur for multiple reasons. The build-up of ear wax is a common problem that can happen at any age. Some people also naturally produce a lot of hard, dry wax which is more prone to build-up. Other factors that can increase the chance of wax build-up include:
- having hairy or narrow ear canals
- being elderly, as earwax becomes drier with age
- repeated ear infections
- bony growths in the outer part of the ear canal.
- inserting objects into your ear canal, such as cotton buds
What are the symptoms of earwax build-up?
The build-up of earwax in your ear can cause symptoms such as:
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Difficulty hearing, which may continue to worsen
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- A feeling of itchiness in the ear
- Discharge from the ear
- Odor coming from the ear
Treatment of ear wax build-up?
Don’t try to remove a build-up of ear wax yourself such as with your fingers, a cotton bud or any other object. This can damage your ear and push the wax further down. There are several different earwax removal treatments available such as:
- Eardrops – drops used several times a day for a few days to soften the ear wax so that it falls out by itself
- Ear irrigation – a quick and painless procedure where an electric pump is use to push water into your ear and wash the earwax out
- Microsuction – a quick and painless procedure where a small device is use to suck the earwax out of your ear
- Aural toilet – where a thin instrument with a small hoop at one end is used to clean your ear and scrape out the earwax
Not all these treatments are suitable for everyone. Your pharmacist or doctor can let you know what treatments may work for you.
Prevention of ear wax build-up
Some people are naturally prone to wax building up in their ears and may need frequent treatment to remove it when it becomes a problem. Additionally, regular use of olive oil drops (2 to 3 drops in each ear once per week) may reduce the build up of wax. This can be particularly useful if you use hearing aids or ear plugs.
However, it’s not clear if there’s anything you can do to stop ear wax blocking your ears, although some doctors recommend using eardrops regularly to keep your ear wax soft.
Furthermore, don’t try to scrape out the ear wax with your finger or an object inserted into your ear, as this this can make the problem worse.