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Think you might need hearing aids? You may be surprised to know the culprit could be built-up earwax causing hearing loss. Excess earwax is one of the most common causes of partial hearing loss, and luckily the most treatable.

Earwax causing hearing loss happens when it collects and blocks the ear canal or when use of cotton-swabs has pushed the earwax back against the eardrum.

Earwax isn’t really wax at all.

It is a mixture of skin cells and oil in the ear canal. Its job is to trap incoming dust, dirt and bacteria and keep it from entering the ear canal. It also acts as a temporary water repellant.

When your body creates a normal amount of earwax you should never have to remove it (that’s right NEVER.) The motion of your jaw slowly moves the wax and debris down your ear canal. Eventually the wax reaches the outer ear, where it will dry up and flake off without you even noticing.

Excess earwax production

If your body produces too much earwax the motion of your jaw is not enough to move all the wax out on it’s own. That does not mean you should run for the Q-Tips to try and clear it out. Q-Tips push the wax further into your ear and cause the wax to become impacted. You experience hearing loss when the ear canal is blocked with impacted wax. You will need to see your doctor to have the removed.

Besides hearing loss, other symptoms of built up earwax include a feeling of fullness, itching, vertigo, pain and tinnitus. A quick visit to your physician to get your ears cleaned will get you hearing again. Your physician can use an endoscope to see directly into your ear. Once they have a good view, they will use a tool to gently remove the wax. This is the safest remedy for wax removal.

There are plenty of at-home kits on the internet or your local drug store. However, attempting to remove the wax at home leaves you at risk for perforating your eardrum or scraping your ear canal, causing serious damage. Some doctors recommend placing a few drops of baby oil, or commercial ear drops. When placed in your ear each night before bed the drops will loosen the wax. Loose wax works its way out naturally or makes it easier for the doctor to be able to remove it.

Many people will never have to visit a doctor to have their ears cleaned. People who produce excess earwax and some hearing aid wearers are the exception. Certain styles of hearing aids that sit inside the ear canal stop earwax’s natural progression out of the ear, which is why you may notice built up earwax on your hearing device. It is important to keep your hearing device clean of wax and visit your doctor to see if you need your ears cleaned too.