Scientific studies have not yet pinpointed as to why we have earwax. Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Earwax helps in trapping dust and other micro particles and prevents them from reaching or potentially damaging/infecting the eardrum. In normal conditions the wax dries and falls out of the ear along with the trapped dust and particles. Another interesting fact is that the amount of ear wax produced is genetic like our hair colour or height. Sometimes the smaller or oddly shaped ear canals make it difficult for the ear wax to get out of the canal and this causes earwax blockage.
Earwax blockage or impaction occurs when the wax does not get thrown out naturally and gets pushed deep within the ear canal. Earwax blockage is one of the most common ear problems doctors see. The most common reason for earwax impaction is the use of ear buds or similar objects including rolled napkin corners, hairpins etc. All these can remove the earwax superficially but at the same time pushes the rest of the wax deeper into the ear canal. Other reason may be the use of earplugs and hearing aids which can also push the wax deeper and cause earwax blockage.
Symptoms of blockage
There are many symptoms for earwax blockage or impaction which we can easily find out. The symptoms include decreased hearing, dizziness, ear pain, fullness in the ear, ringing in the ear, itching accompanies by draining from the ear. A couple of these symptoms or few of them together may be due to the earwax impaction.
When to see an ENT specialist?
At the first signs of earwax blockage it is advisable to see a specialist. Before trying to remove the block by yourself or using home remedies it is best to seek medical help and easily find relief from the earwax problem. By approaching a medical expert you can also eliminate other reasons and narrow it down to earwax impaction.
Depending on the severity of the blockage your doctor may recommend removal method at home or do a procedure in the hospital. If there are no perforation or hole in the eardrum then doctor may advise you to get an OTC wax softening drops and put a few drops in the ear which will drain the wax from the ear after sometime. A bulb type syringe may be used to gently flush the wax out with lukewarm water.
At the hospital the doctor may remove the earwax with a small plastic spoon called a curette or irrigate the ear with warm water, sodium bicarbonate or other prescription ear drops and use a gentle suction pump to remove the wax.
How to prevent earwax?
The frequent earwax blockage can be prevented by avoiding the use of cotton-tipped swabs or other objects including pins to remove the wax, since the wax gets pushed further inside and deeper into the ear canal.