While it may not look attractive, earwax plays a vital role in keeping the ear canal lubricated, clean and healthy. Generally, earwax will naturally pass through your ears, but in some cases, it can build up and block the ear canal.
Earwax blockage is usually down to using “poking tools”, such as your fingers, cotton buds and hair clips, which can gradually push the earwax deeper into the ear. In-ear headphones and hearing aids can also contribute to the buildup of earwax — even having narrow ear canals can cause wax to get stuck. You may also find that your earwax is getting drier as you age, which makes it harder to move through the ear canal.
No matter what the cause of your blockage, there are several earwax removal methods to effectively manage your condition. Before you seek treatment though, how do you know that you have an earwax blockage? What are the symptoms? Below are six key signs to look out for.
A buildup of earwax can sometimes cause earache in one or both ears. Earache can present itself differently among patients — it can be a sharp, dull or burning ear pain that comes and goes or it may be constant. Whatever level of pain you’re feeling in your ears, it’s not normal and you don’t have to suffer.
2. Feeling of Fullness
If your ears feel clogged or plugged, you may have Eustachian tube dysfunction, which is defined as a pressure abnormality in the middle ear. The most common causes are a common cold or sinus infection..
3. Hearing Loss
Many cases of conductive hearing loss in older adults are a result of earwax buildup, which makes sounds seem muffled or far away. If you have sudden or partial hearing loss, excessive earwax may be the culprit, but don’t worry — your hearing will improve after the excess earwax is removed.
4. Ear Infection
If you insert an object into your ear to clean, it can aggravate the ear canal and push earwax further back, causing a blockage. This can trap bacteria in the ear, resulting in an ear infection. Common symptoms of an infection include itchiness and discomfort, and while some go away on their own, others may require prescribed ear drops.
If you’re feeling a little unsteady on your feet, the problem may be in your inner ear. Dizziness is a disruption in your sense of balance, which can create a sensation of unsteadiness, spinning or general disorientation. As a result, you may feel lightheaded, nauseated or as if you might faint.
Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or noises in the ear, and an accumulation of earwax may be the cause. You may experience tinnitus all of the time or it may come and go. This can be caused by ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear, including excessive earwax in the outer ear.
You may have one of these symptoms or you may have all six, but once you have the excess earwax professionally removed from your ears, you’ll usually see an improvement. If you’re still struggling with symptoms even after removal, it’s important to see a medical professional.