Don's Home Health Earwax
Contents: | Symptoms: | Diagnosis: | Causes: | Earphones: | Cleaning: | See:

Your ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax. This wax protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, and microorganisms. It also protects ear canal skin from irritation due to water.
In normal circumstances, excess wax finds its way out of the canal and into the ear opening naturally and then is washed away.

Excessive wax:

  • Sudden or partial hearing loss, which is usually temporary
  • Tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ear
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Eararache
  • Itching, odor, or discharge
Most cases of conductive hearing loss in older adults is caused by earwax buildup.

Unremoved earwax buildup can lead to infection, which in turn could result in pain, drainage, odor from the ear, coughing, or dizziness.
You should see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

My running partner noticed I wasn't hearing cars coming up behind us.
I went to Costco to get a hearing test and they looked in my ear with an An otoscope (a lighted instrument with a magnifier), saw wax in one side and said I should go to the doctor to get my ear irrigated.


  • The most common cause of impactions is the use of Q-tips (and other objects such as bobby pins and rolled napkin corners), which can remove superficial wax but also pushes the rest of the wax deeper into the ear canal.
  • Hearing aid and earplug users are also more prone to earwax blockage.
  • Aging of the skin and loss of elasticity
  • Excessive hair in the ear
  • You can just produce too much wax.
The more frequent use of earphones in recent years has caused more earwax problems.
In-ear monitors (IEMs) (Types B, C and D) are popular with musicians for ambient noise isolation and runners, so they don't fall out. I used type C when I fly for noise isolation, but I think they caused my earwax buildup.
Even earbuds which sit over the ear can contribute.

You can go to the doctor to have your ear irrigated or try some home remedies which are OK according to WebMD and other sources.

You can soften the wax with a variety of liquids which you put in your ear for about 5 minutes.
Try over-the-counter wax softening drops such as Debrox or Murine or mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, baby oil, or glycerin.
You can then irrigate with a syringe ane warm water.

Ear candling is not recommended. This is a procedure where a hollow cone made of paraffin is inserted in the ear and the end is lit to create a vacuum. It doesn't work.

WebMD and HealthLine

ClearEar has a tool that seems to be safe. I couldn't find any warnings for it.

Earwax Buildup and Blockage: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | HealthLine
Earwax Symptoms, Causes, and Removal | WebMD
How to Clean Your Ears? Best Ways to Remove Earwax

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last updated 3 Dec 2016