In some cases, you may not be able to hear through the affected ear. But this usually lasts only until you can remove the excess wax.
Earwax clogging can occur when your body produces too much earwax or when the existing wax is pushed too far into the ear canal.
In most cases, home treatment works well, but a doctor can also help remove and disconnect the wax blockage.
Causes of an earwax plug
Some earwax is normal. The wax protects your inner ear from debris, such as bacteria and dust.
Usually, the wax gradually comes out of your ear, so there is no blockage. However, you can develop a backup if you push the wax deep into your ear or naturally produce excessive earwax.
Using cotton swabs
If you try to remove the wax with a cotton swab or other object, you may push it further into the ear, creating a blockage.
The natural presence of excessive wax
Another possible cause of a matchstick blockage is that your body produces more wax than it should.
In this case, there may be too much wax for your ear to remove quickly. If so, the resin can harden in the ear, making it less likely to come out on its own.
Wax in children
Children, like adults, naturally produce wax. While it may be tempting to remove the wax, doing so can damage your child’s ears.
If you suspect that your child has earwax buildup or a blockage, it’s best to see a pediatrician. Your child’s doctor may also notice excess wax during regular ear exams and remove it as needed.
Also, if you notice that your child is putting his finger or other objects in his ear to avoid irritation, you may want to ask his doctor to check his ears for wax buildup.
Earwax in older adults
Wax can also be problematic in older adults. Some adults may let the wax buildup continue until it begins to obstruct hearing.
A buildup of earwax causes most cases of conductive hearing loss in older adults. This makes the sounds appear muffled.
A hearing aid can also contribute to a wax blockage.
One of the main symptoms of cerumen blockage is decreased hearing in the affected ear. Don’t worry; your hearing will return once the earwax blockage is removed.
Other common symptoms include:
- A feeling of fullness in your ear.
- An earache.
- Strange noises in your ear.
Most people only notice these symptoms in one ear, as both ears are unlikely to be blocked simultaneously.
If you have these symptoms in both ears, you should see a doctor to rule out other medical conditions.
Your doctor will likely ask about your symptoms before diagnosing you with a wax block. Your doctor will also use a lighted instrument called an otoscope to examine your ear and see if the wax may be causing your symptoms.
Treatment of earwax plug
Your doctor can treat wax blockage in the office or instruct you on doing it at home.
If your doctor believes that your eardrum is not intact, the match may need to be removed to ensure that this critical and sensitive structure is not damaged.
You can use various substances to soften and remove earwax at home, including:
- Mineral oil.
- Baby oil.
- Debrox, which contains carbamide peroxide, or another over-the-counter wax removal kit.
Use an eyedropper to insert a few drops into the ear canal twice a day for four to five days to soften the wax.
Once the wax is smooth, it should come out on its own within a few days.
Another home care option is watering. Fill a rubber syringe with warm water, tilt your head, and gently squeeze the syringe.
Raise your earlobe slightly to direct the water into your ear canal. You will likely need to repeat this procedure several times. Dry your ear well after trying to remove the wax blockage.
At the doctor’s office
If these tactics don’t work, you may need to have your doctor suction your ear or remove the blockage.
To remove wax buildup, your doctor may use:
- A curette is a small, curved instrument.
Most people do well after wax removal. Hearing often returns to normal immediately. However, some people are prone to producing too much wax and will face the problem again.
If you know that you are prone to earwax blockage, you should regularly consider preventing buildup by rinsing your ear. This can reduce the chances of the match hardening and clogging your ear.
Another way to prevent earwax blockage is to prevent something from sticking to the ear, including the cotton swabs that many people regularly use to clean wax.
This tactic can push the wax further into your ear, causing a blockage and possible irritation to the eardrum. Instead, it would help if you used a wet cloth or handkerchief to clean your ear gently.
Once you experience a wax blockage, there is no guarantee that it will not return. If your body produces excessive wax, you may have to deal with this condition several times in your life.
Earwax blockage is only a temporary problem, and your symptoms should go away after treating the condition.
Some people experience complications from earwax blockages, such as fever, ear drainage, and severe earache. If you notice these relatively rare symptoms, you should contact your doctor to have your earwax removed as soon as possible.