Don’t forget to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you unavoidably use your “parent voice”. Perhaps you even remember getting that advice as a kid. As you get wrapped up in past nostalgia, that kind of memory can take you back to simpler times.
But that advice can be rather helpful. Your hearing can be substantially impacted by out-of-control earwax. And on top of that, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really hard to clean. In other words, the clearer you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
Earwax is, well, kind of gross. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But earwax does serve a purpose. Earwax is manufactured by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dirt and dust.
So your ears will remain clean and healthy when they generate the ideal amount of earwax. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself is not a sign of poor hygiene.
The troubles start when your ears produce too much earwax. And it can be fairly difficult to know if the amount of earwax being generated is healthy or too much.
What does accumulated earwax do?
So, what develops as a consequence of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, accumulates, can lead to several problems. Those problems include:
- Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Tinnitus symptoms can show up or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.
- Earache: One of the most common signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, sometimes it can). This is typically a result of the earwax producing pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
- Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can become trapped behind impacted earwax.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. So when accumulated ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can suffer, causing dizziness.
This list is just the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can occur because of unchecked earwax accumulation. If you use hearing aids, excess earwax can impede them. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are having problems.
Can earwax affect your hearing?
Well, yes it can. One of the most typical problems associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. Normally producing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax builds up in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting in. Your hearing will typically return to normal after the wax is cleaned out.
But if the buildup becomes extreme, permanent damage can occur. And tinnitus is also usually temporary but when earwax blockage lingers, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
It’s a good idea to keep track of your earwax if you want to protect your hearing. It’s incorrect cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most situations (for example, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in instead of getting rid of it).
Frequently, the wax has gotten hard, dense, and unable to clear without professional treatment. The sooner you receive that treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to hear again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start cleaning your ears the right way).