Earwax Removal

Cerumen, also known as earwax, is a naturally produced substance that helps to lubricate the ear canals and protect them from dust and debris. It typically clears itself from the ears, but can sometimes accumulate and cause a blockage, particularly if you wear earmolds or hearing aids. Symptoms of a cerumen blockage include:

Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
Decreased hearing
Feeling of fullness in the ear Dizziness

If a blockage occurs, it may need to be removed. This can be done at home, at a physician’s office, or at your hearing care professional’s office, depending on the size and severity of the blockage.

At-home earwax removal

In some instances, your physician may send patients home with an at-home earwax removal kit. Earwax removal kits can also be purchased over the counter in most drug stores. These kits generally consist of a liquid that softens earwax and a small rubber bulb syringe. You will be given directions on how much and how often to apply the liquid to your ear canals, allowing it to sit for a short amount of time in your ears to soften up the earwax. Bubbling and fizzing sensations in your ears are normal with use. You will then use the bulb syringe to gently flush your ears with warm (not hot) water to remove the earwax. It may take several days to completely clear earwax blockages from your ear. However, there are contraindications to using these kits in some people and with some ear conditions. Before attempting at-home earwax removal, it is advised to speak with your hearing care provider to be sure it is safe for you.

Avoiding Certain Earwax Removal Methods

Using cotton swabs to remove earwax or dislodge blockages can be problematic, as it can push the blockage further down into the ear canal, causing more damage. Cotton swabs can also accidentally be inserted too far into the ear canal, compacting wax and potentially puncturing the eardrum. It is recommended to only use cotton swabs on the outer portions of the ear and never insert them or any small object into the ear canal.

Professional Earwax Removal

If a blockage is more significant, it may need to be removed by a hearing care professional. They may use one of two methods, irrigation or curettage. Irrigation is the most common method and may involve the use of stronger earwax removal medications in addition to irrigation. Curettage involves the use of a curette, a long, curved tool that may also be used with suction to remove the cerumen from the ear canal. If you experience pain or discomfort due to earwax or suspect a blockage, it is important to seek help from a hearing health professional as soon as possible. Removing earwax should be painless and bring relief.

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