Earwax and Hearing: Effects and Solutions

Though this might seem surprising, earwax is very important to ear health. It protects the ears by keeping dust and germs out of the outer ear and preventing irritation caused by water. Earwax buildup, however, can have a negative impact on hearing. There are several ways to address excessive amounts of earwax and resolve the issues it may cause.

Earwax Buildup and Hearing

Most of the time, earwax is naturally expelled little by little from the ear as more is formed. However, when it becomes lodged in the ear canal and is unable to flake off or fall out, this can lead to a buildup. Excessive earwax can block sounds from entering the ear and cause partial hearing loss that makes words and sounds seem distant, unclear, or muted. It may also cause tinnitus, or a constant ringing in the ear, which can also make hearing more difficult.

Recommended Remedies for Earwax Removal

Audiologist checking a patient's ear with an otoscope

Although it’s uncomfortable and annoying, earwax buildup can quickly be resolved with a few safe remedies. Those who wish to attempt earwax removal at home may try softening drops, which are available over the counter at most pharmacies. They contain safe oils that can help loosen earwax, encouraging it to dislodge and eventually fall out. With a doctor’s recommendation, irrigation kits may also be used at home. If these methods are unsuccessful, an audiologist or doctor can address the issue at an office visit.

Ineffective and Unsafe Methods

As tempting as it may be, it’s never, under any circumstances, safe to insert a cotton swab into the ear. Except for hearing aids and other medically approved devices, individuals should avoid placing anything into the ear canal. Additionally, not using earbuds, which can push earwax further into the ear, is recommended until the problem is resolved and hearing returns to normal. A doctor should always be consulted before attempting any procedures or remedies.

If you’re suffering from any type of untreated hearing loss, Associated Hearing Professionals can help you find the solution that best fits your needs. Our team of audiologists is dedicated to improving your hearing and quality of life. To schedule an appointment at one of our offices in the St. Louis area, call us at 314-725-2686 or contact us online.