What Is Ear Wax?

Ear wax, or cerumen, is a mix of dirt, dead skin and fatty secretions from the outer ear canal’s sebaceous glands. It’s naturally expelled by skin growth and jaw movement (which flexes the skin). Once it reaches the outer ear, it dries up and flakes away.1

You might experience heavy buildup, or harder ear wax, if: 

  • Your sebaceous glands are more active than usual
  • Your ear canal is narrow or has an unusual shape
  • You have flaky skin (perhaps because of eczema)
  • You’re older or wear hearing aids.

In these cases, your ears might not be able to expel your ear wax, potentially causing symptoms and requiring cleaning. 

Symptoms of Ear Wax Buildup

Excessive ear wax buildup is usually more of an annoyance than anything else – it’s not typically linked to a bigger problem. However, the buildup can press on the eardrum and cause symptoms including:2

  • Earaches or itchiness
  • Tinnitus
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing problems
  • A full or heavy feeling in the ear.

When to See a Specialist

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your hearing care professional or GP. 

While your hearing care professional may recommend methods to clean your ears at home, you should always consult them first to determine what method is right for your hearing health.

Audiologists understand ear anatomy and can see directly into your ear canal - two significant advantages over the do-it-yourself approach. They should be able to unblock your ears in a single visit.

Audiologists will use liquids if suitable, but if not, they may use suction or other tools.

Your local Connect Hearing clinic can assist with ear cleaning. If you’re concerned about your ear wax situation or would like someone to take a look and ensure everything’s okay, drop in. They’ll be delighted to assist.


  1. Harvard Health Publishing (16 November 2021) Got an ear full? Here’s some advice, Harvard Medical School, accessed 27 February 2024.

  2. Health Direct (October 2023) Ear wax - symptoms, causes and treatment, Health Direct, accessed 27 February 2024.