Ear Wax Removal

This is the removal of wax from the ear canal using a small instrument or suction device.

This is the removal of wax from the ear canal using a small instrument or suction device.

The outer ear canal is lined with hair follicles and glands that produce a wax called cerumen. These hairs and wax protect the eardrum by:

  • Trapping dust and other foreign material
  • Protecting the ear from infection

Earwax also moistens the ear canal, keeping it from becoming dry and irritated.

The amount and quality of wax produced in the ear differs from person to person. Some people have moist, sticky wax. Others have dry, crumbly wax. Normally, the ear canal is self-cleaning.

  • The wax gradually moves to the outer opening of the ear, where it rolls out or is wiped away.
  • Sometimes earwax builds up in the ear canal and needs to be removed.
  • This can be done by irrigating the ear canal or using a suction device.

Impacted cerumen is when earwax clumps together and blocks the ear canal.

  • Earwax buildup is the most common cause of hearing loss for people of all ages. It is especially common in older adults.
  • Inserting cotton swabs or other articles into the ear can cause impacted cerumen. It does this by pushing the wax toward the eardrum.

Other factors that may lead to a wax buildup include:

  • Water in the ear that causes the wax to swell
  • Exposure to dust or dirt
  • Excessive wax production
  • Earplugs or hearing aids that hamper the natural wax removal process

If you have a wax blockage in your ear, it can cause:

  • Your ear feeling plugged
  • Sudden or chronic hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ear
  • Pressure or fullness in the ear that can be accompanied by dizziness.

If you have symptoms of impacted earwax, contact your healthcare provider. He or she will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history and an ear exam.

  • Earwax removal is usually not necessary unless the ear canal is blocked or hearing is affected.
  • If you tried to get the wax out at home, there may be temporary redness of the eardrum. Therefore, remind your healthcare provider if you tried an earwax removal kit at home.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having ear wax removed?

  • Do I need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist?
  • What treatment plan are you recommending? Are there any possible alternatives?
  • What medications do you recommended (including possible side effects)?
  • What are my follow-up plans? What symptoms should I report before my next appointment?
  • What over-the-counter earwax treatment do you recommend?
  • How can I keep my earwax soft and prevent future buildup?

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

Ear Wax Removal
Ear Infection

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