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Everything you need to know about impacted earwax

Everything you need to know about impacted earwax

Are you suffering from earwax impaction? This uncomfortable and damaging condition is surprisingly common, but its causes, symptoms and treatment are often poorly understood. Earwax is a naturally occurring substance that the body produces to protect the ears. Some people have excessive amounts of earwax, which, if left untreated, can block the ear, causing tinnitus, itchiness or dizziness.

What is earwax impaction

Earwax impaction is the condition caused when the rate at which the body produces earwax exceeds the rate at which it is discarded. In a healthy ear, wax is secreted in the outer end of the ear canal. Its function is to trap dust, bacteria and other air-borne pathogens before they can enter the delicate inner ear. Ear wax also coats the ear canal to prevent water from damaging it during showers or swimming. Earwax naturally moves towards the outer ear, where it is removed during bathing.

What causes earwax impaction?

Impacted earwax affects both children and adults. Various factors can contribute to an overproduction of wax in the ears. Some of the most common ones include

  • Overuse of cotton buds to remove superficial earwax
  • Working in dusty/dirty environments
  • Frequent use of hearing aids or earplugs
  • Stress
  • Genetic factors (overproduction of earwax)
  • Surfing/swimming in cold water
  • Having narrow or hairy ear canals

Am I at risk of an earwax blockage?

The following groups are most vulnerable to earwax blockage however, anyone can suffer from impacted earwax.

  • People who put objects in their ears (such as ear plugs or headphones) repeatedly
  • People with an autoimmune disease
  • An ear canal that's narrower than average
  • Eczema sufferers
  • People with some sort of bony abnormality in their ear that intrudes into the ear canal
  • Someone with an ear injury

For people who produce excessive earwax, blockage frequency will vary from one person to the next. We recommend hearing aid users have earwax removed professionally every 3-6 months as hearing aids can increase the chances of having impacted earwax.

What are the risks if earwax impaction isn't treated?

If impacted earwax is ignored, you may suffer from one or more complications which includes:

  • Hearing loss
  • Bleeding from the ear
  • A perforated eardrum (which is unfortunately horribly painful)
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Earache
  • Unpleasant sensations in the ear, including itching

How to remove impacted earwax

People often instinctively reach for a cotton bud when they need relief from a blocked ear, but you shouldn't use objects to scoop the wax out. Sticking things into the ear canal is risky - you may remove some of the wax, but chances are you will make the impaction worse.

Over-the-counter earwax softening drops that you can buy at your local chemist can soften and disintegrate wax, so you get some relief. These won't necessarily remove the blockage altogether, but they may offer temporary relief from symptoms while you wait for your appointment to have the wax professionally removed.

The most reliable earwax removal method

Microsuction is undoubtedly the most reliable and effective earwax removal solution. It is the technique we use at earLAB, and specialists also recommend it.

Microsuction is a dry method performed under direct observation. It's safe and effective for almost anyone - even if you have a perforated eardrum. The process involves inserting a small microsuction catheter directly into the ear canal. This is attached to suction tubing that gently sucks out the built-up wax like a miniature vacuum.

The process is observed by a qualified clinician using specialist magnifying lenses fitted with bright lights. They will talk you through the procedure and offer some education about preventing future build-ups once the process is complete.

Are DIY treatments effective in removing excess wax?

Whilst using cotton buds to remove ear wax is always unwise, there are some DIY treatments that may provide relief.

DIY remedies usually consist of placing a few drops of a cerumenolytic (wax loosening) solution in the ear. This may be glycerine, baby oil, saline solution or proprietary ear drops. Users need to lie on the opposite side to the affected ear for a period after inserting the drops to enable them to penetrate into the ear canal. When the wax is loosened and moves to the outer ear, it can be gently removed using a cloth or cotton pad.

Unfortunately, they're frequently messy and unpleasant, as well as take several days (or even weeks) to make a difference. This is why most people prefer micro-suction earwax removal Melbourne residents can depend on to be clean, safe and effective.

Ear candling is another increasingly common method people attempt to unblock their ears, but ear candling is not effective or safe and should be avoided.

Trust earLAB to resolve impacted earwax

We are a leading provider of earwax removal Melbourne residents trust. The procedure will take around half an hour to eliminate the blockage so you can walk out of the clinic with clear ears. Get in touch with the team at earLAB to discover more about the benefits of micro suction to relieve the troublesome symptoms of impacted earwax.