Earwax Blockage

1 What is Earwax Blockage?

Earwax blockage refers to accumulation of hard earwax in your ear that cannot be naturally removed.

Earwax is a normal protective secretion by the glands in your ear canal and does not cause any problem as it is naturally washed away.

Earwax helps to clean, lubricate and protect your ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing bacterial growth. It is a simple condition that does not require immediate or special medical care.

Your earwax blockage can be easily unplugged by your doctor.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of earwax blockage may include: 


• Feeling of fullness in your ear 

• Ringing or noises in the ear (tinnitus) 

• Reduced hearing in the affected ear 



When to see a doctor? 

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the signs and symptoms of earwax blockage. Remember these signs could be due to some other conditions that may need attention. Do not try to remove the earwax on your own. Your doctor is better in doing that for you. Ask your doctor to remove your earwax especially if you've had ear surgery, have a perforated eardrum, or are having ear pain or drainage. 

3 Causes

The main cause of earwax blockage is the hard earwax in your ear that cannot be naturally removed.

Earwax is a protective secretion produced by glands in the ear canal. The wax along with tiny hairs in the canal protect deeper structures, such as eardrum by preventing dust and other foreign particles from reaching there. Earwax is secreted, swept away and replaced by new wax as a normal process in your ear.

You may experience problem if an excessive amount of wax is secreted or the clearing process is not effective causing its accumulation, a wax plug.

You may have greater chances of developing earwax if you use cotton swabs in your ear in an attempt to clear the ear. It is because doing so only pushes the wax deeper into the ear.

4 Making a Diagnosis

There is no specific method for making a diagnosis of earwax blockage.

You will visit your family doctor or a general practitioner in case you encounter such problems. Rarely, you may have to visit a specialist in ear disorders (otolaryngologist), upon referral. Getting prepared for the visit can optimize the therapy and help make the visit more fruitful. You can make a list of the symptoms to ask your doctor.

What your doctor wants to know?

A clear talk with your doctor can optimize the therapy and improve the outcomes. Prepare yourself to answer some essential questions from your doctor. Your doctor might ask you typical questions like: 

  • When did the symptoms such as, earache or difficulty hearing start appearing? 
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Do you have any drainage from your ears? 
  • Did you have problems such as earache, difficulty hearing or drainage in the past? 

What you can do in the meantime? 

DON’T try to remove the earwax on your own. Using items like hairpins or pen caps is strictly prohibited as it might push the wax further deeper and lead to serious injury to the ear canal or eardrum. Your doctor can use instrument that lights and magnifies your inner ear, otoscope, to view your ear and decide if any action is needed.

5 Treatment

Earwax blockage is a simple condition that does not require immediate or special medical treatment.

Your earwax can be removed with the help of a small, curved instrument called a curet or a suction. In addition, a rubber-bulb syringe containing warm water may be used to flush out the wax.

You may also use medications such as, carbamide peroxide if your earwax annoys you time and again. Use these medications only as directed to avoid problems like ear irritation.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Consult with your doctor before starting any alternative and homeopathic remedies for earwax blockage.

Ear candling is an alternative medicine technique in which a hollow candle is placed in the ear which is then lit. Practitioners of ear candling say that burning candle creates a vacuum that pulls wax out of the ear. But studies have revealed it is useless rather it may cause injuries, such as burns, ear canal obstructions and even perforations. Doctors generally do not recommend ear candling.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

There are different ways to adapt your lifestyle in coping with earwax blockage.

Here are some self-care measures that may help you clear the problematic earwax: 

  • Soften the wax: Apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin or hydrogen peroxide in your ear canal with an eyedropper.
  • Use warm water: The wax softens within a day or two. Then you can pass warm water into your ear canal with the help of a rubber-bulb syringe.
  • To facilitate flow of warm water inside your ear canal, you may shake your outer by pulling it back and forth. 
  • When done, drain the water out by holding your head in a tilted position. 
  • Dry your ear canal: Dry your outer ear with a towel or hand-held dryer. 

You may have to repeat this technique to loosen up hard ear plugs but if symptoms don't improve even then, understand that it’s time for a doctor visit. There are earwax removal kits available in stores but talk to your doctor before using any of these products.