Ear wax build up can be bothersome but be careful when treating it. Glands in the ear canal produce war wax, which traps dust and other small particles, preventing them from reaching, and potentially damaging or infecting, the ear drum. It will dry up and fall out of the ear.
Blockages, or impaction, occur when the wax gets pushed deep into the ear canal. The most common cause of impactions is the use of cotton-tipped swabs or other objects such as bobby pins and rolled napkin corners, which can remove superficial wax but push the rest deeper into the ear. Symptoms of an ear wax impaction include:
- Decreased hearing
- Ear pain
- Plugged or fullness sensation
- Ringing in the ear
- Itching or drainage from the ear canal
See a doctor if there are symptoms of an ear wax impaction. Other conditions may cause these symptoms, so it is important to be sure ear wax is the culprit before trying any home remedies.
Go to the hospital if:
- You have a severe spinning sensation, loss of balance, or inability to walk
- You have persistent vomiting or high fever
- You experience sudden loss of hearing
Complications of blockage could include infections and permanent hearing loss.
The doctor may recommend an ear wax removal method at home, unless you have a perforation (hole) or a tube in your eardrum. Over-the-counter wax softening drops such as Debrox or Murine may be put into the affected ear. A bulb-type syringe may be used to gently flush the ear with warm water. The water should be at body temperature to help prevent dizziness.
Ear candling is not recommended. The procedure uses a hollow cone made of paraffin and beeswax with cloth on the tapered end. The tapered end is placed inside the ear and an assistant lights the other end. The thought is as the flame burns, a vacuum is created, which draws the wax out of the ear. However, limited clinical trials show that no vacuum was created, and no wax was removed. Furthermore ear candling could result in serious injury.