Don’t neglect cleaning your ears. It’s difficult not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe you even recall getting that advice as a kid. That’s the sort of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.
But that advice can be pretty helpful. Out-of-control earwax buildup can cause a significant number of issues, especially for your hearing. Still worse, this organic compound can solidify in place making it difficult to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clear.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
We get it, earwax is not the most appealing of materials. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But earwax does have a purpose. Created by specialized glands in your ear and pushed outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.
Essentially, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it sounds, the truth is that earwax itself is not a sign of poor hygiene.
The troubles begin when your ears generate too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax starts to outweigh its usefulness (literally).
What does excess earwax do?
So, what kind of impact does excess earwax have? There are several problems that could develop due to out-of-control earwax or earwax that builds up over time. Here are a few:
- Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid accumulates, it can become trapped behind plugged earwax.
- Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends greatly on your inner ear. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can suffer, causing dizziness.
- Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re usually suffering from a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax accumulates inside your ear.
- Earache: One of the most prevalent signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can hurt a lot. This normally occurs when earwax is causing pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
These are only a few. Ignored earwax can trigger painful headaches. If you wear hearing aids, excess earwax can impede them. So excessive earwax may make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.
Can earwax affect your hearing?
Well, yes it can. One of the most common issues associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it produces a blockage of sound causing a form of hearing loss known as conductive hearing loss. Your hearing will usually go back to normal after the wax is cleared out.
But if the accumulation becomes extreme, long term damage can develop. And tinnitus is also normally temporary but when earwax blockage persists, long-term damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
If you want to protect your hearing, then it makes sense to keep an eye on your earwax. It’s incorrect cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most situations (for example, blockage is frequently caused by cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in instead of removing it).
It will often require professional removal of the wax that has become hardened to the point that you can’t get rid of it. The sooner you receive that help, the sooner you’ll be capable of hearing again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start cleaning your ears the correct way).