Ear wax is a natural substance that can become a problem if it builds up in the ear canal. A build-up of ear wax can cause hearing problems and affect your quality of life.
Earwax (cerumen) is produced by glands in the ear canal. Its purpose is to protect the skin from water loss and infections, and to keep dirt away from the ear canal opening.
Wax becomes impacted when it accumulates in small amounts at a time, rather than being pushed out naturally. The more often you have your ears cleaned, the less likely you are to experience problems with ear wax build-up.
Ear wax can become a problem if it’s too thick or too dry. If you have an ear infection, you may need to clean out your ears with a cotton swab or bulb syringe. You can also use over-the-counter ear drops or sprays to soften the wax so it will come out easier.
The buildup of ear wax can cause several problems, including:
Itchy ears – Ear wax may contain dead skin cells and other debris that irritate your ear canal.
Otitis externa (“swimmer’s ear”) – If the ear canal is blocked with ear wax, water can’t drain properly, which can lead to infection.
Frequent infections – Repeated bouts of otitis media — another type of middle-ear infection — are common in children who have a lot of ear wax buildup.
Ear wax that remains in your ears for too long can cause hearing problems because it blocks sound waves from entering your ear canal. It may also cause temporary hearing loss if you put something in your ear to remove it, such as cotton swabs or bobby pins — this pushes the wax deeper into your ear canal and damages sensitive eardrum tissue.
The best way to avoid these problems is to keep your ears clean by clearing out any wax every few weeks with an over-the-counter product that contains a cleansing agent plus hydrocortisone or antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection. Your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication if repeated use of over-the-counter products doesn’t clear up the problem.
You should never try to remove your own ear wax with cotton buds or anything else you find around the house! It’s important that any blockage of your ears is always removed by a professional, so as not to cause damage to your eardrum or hearing.
If you have an infection such as swimmer’s ear (otitis externa), seek medical advice before attempting any DIY remedies yourself – this condition is serious and needs urgent treatment by a doctor or pharmacist.