Don’t forget to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you unavoidably use your “parent voice”. Maybe you even remember getting that advice as a kid. That’s the type of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.
But that advice can be pretty helpful. Uncontrolled earwax accumulation can cause a significant number of problems, particularly for your hearing. Even worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it difficult to clean out. In other words, the clearer you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
Earwax is, well, sort of gross. That’s a viewpoint that most people share. But it is actually essential for your ear’s health. Produced by special glands in your ear and churned outwards by your jaw’s chewing motion, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.
In other words, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. It may seem peculiar, but earwax doesn’t suggest poor hygiene.
The problems start when your ears produce too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax begins to outweigh its usefulness (literally).
What does excess earwax do?
So, what develops as a result of accumulated earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, builds up, can lead to a number of issues. Here are a few:
- Earache: An earache is one of the most common indications of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that much, and other times it can really hurt. This is normally a result of the earwax producing pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can suffer, causing you to feel dizzy.
- Tinnitus: When you hear ringing or buzzing that isn’t actually there, you’re probably suffering from a condition known as tinnitus. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to appear.
- Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. Sometimes, that’s because the earwax can lock in fluid where it shouldn’t be.
This list is only the beginning. Headaches and pain can occur because of uncontrolled earwax accumulation. Too much earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax might make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.
Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?
Well, yes it can. One of the most common problems associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it causes a blockage of sound causing a kind of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. The problem normally goes away when the earwax is removed, and usually, your hearing will return to normal.
But there can be sustained damage caused by accumulated earwax, particularly if the buildup gets extreme enough. The same is true of earwax-caused tinnitus. It’s typically not permanent. But the longer the extra earwax sticks around (that is, the longer you ignore the symptoms), the greater the risk of long-term damage.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to protect your hearing. In many circumstances, earwax buildup is caused not by excess production but by incorrect cleaning (for example, blockage is frequently caused by cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in rather than removing it).
Often, the wax has gotten hard, dense, and unmovable without professional help. You’ll be capable of starting to hear again as soon as you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct way.