The number one reason why people suffer from conductive hearing loss is chronic ear wax build-up or impaction. Luckily, this can often be removed at home without a trip to a health care professional, but care must be taken to avoid injuring the ear.


What is ear wax?

Cerumen, or ear wax, is an oily, waxy substance that occurs naturally in the ear. It has two purposes: protection from foreign objects, and lubrication of the ear canal.

Ear wax captures tiny particles of debris, dust, and dead skin cells, and prevents them from reaching the ear drum or causing damage. This means that ear wax actually protects the ear canal and lubricates the skin to stop dry, itchy irritation that might develop. Sometimes, excess ear wax can harden causing blockages or build-ups that may affect your hearing.

How do you recognise ear wax build-up?

There are degrees of discomfort that may be felt with ear wax build-up or blockage and it can be as variable as the amount of wax built-up and the length of time it has been building. Some symptoms that accompany an ear wax build-up include:

  • Earache or pain in the ear or neck
  • Sensation of fullness in the ear canal
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ear
  • Hearing loss or noises sound like they’re being heard while underwater
  • In young children, it can cause them to stick their finger or an object in the ear out of frustration or agitation. It’s best to have this treated by a healthcare provider to avoid causing damage to the delicate ear of a child.
  • Ear wax build-up and blockage is the single greatest cause of conductive hearing loss and can be made worse by the use of hearing aids which block the ability for the ear to self-clean.

If you’re experiencing severe pain, drainage or an unusual odour coming from your ear, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Your ear may be infected and must be treated by a health care professional to avoid further infection or permanent hearing loss.

Earphones and earbuds are extremely popular today and can also lead to ear wax build-up. If you frequently use earphones, then you should exercise some precaution and make sure to regularly clean your ears.

It should be noted that wax in the ear canal cannot cause ear infections on its own. Complications from inappropriate wax self-removal techniques can.

Can ear wax build-up be treated at home?

The only part of the ear that should be cleaned at home is the external part of the ear also known as the pinna. 

The ear is self-cleaning, and having some wax in the ear canal is healthy and also needed to protect the inner ear. Therefore, in case of ear wax build-up it is in your best interest to visit a Hearing Care Professional as the average individual does not own an otoscope that would allow them to assess the blockage themselves (whether partial or complete).
The Hearing Care Professional will assess whether or not removal is necessary. If for any reason the consistency is too hard and the wax cannot be removed, the client will be advised to use a few drops of mineral oil daily for one week before the Hearing Care Professional can safely remove it.

When is it necessary to see a doctor?

If you are experiencing significant pain or hearing loss, you may have an infection or something more serious going on that requires professional intervention.  In that case, you should see a health care professional to fully resolve the issue. 

How can I prevent excessive ear wax in the future?

While some people just produce more ear wax naturally than is needed, for most people there are a few simple things you can do:

  • Enlist your doctor’s help at your annual check-up; once a year should be plenty to keep excess ear wax in check. 
  • Be aware that the only part of the ear that should be cleaned at home is the pinna.
  • Be careful wearing earbuds or wear them less often to allow the natural self-cleaning to take place. 
  • If you have hearing aids, then be sure to routinely clean your ears to prevent ear wax build-up or blockage.

Your ear health is important and removing excess ear wax can make improvements to your hearing and your overall health and wellbeing. 

We’re here to help so if you have questions about improving or maintaining ear health for you or someone in your family, book an appointment with our team today and call us on 1800 693 277.