When you take a shower, always remember to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you unavoidably use your “parent voice”. Maybe you even recall getting that advice as a kid. That’s the kind of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.
But it’s also good advice. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a significant number of issues, especially for your hearing. And additionally, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really hard to clean. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
Earwax is, well, kind of gross. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But earwax does have 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 produce the right amount of earwax. It may seem peculiar, but earwax doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.
The troubles start when your ears generate too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax begins to outweigh its advantages (literally).
What is the impact of accumulated earwax?
So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, builds up, can cause several problems. Here are a few:
- Infection: Infections can be the outcome of excessive earwax. If fluid accumulates, it can become trapped behind plugged earwax.
- Earache: An earache is one of the most prevalent signs of excess earwax. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, in some cases it can). This typically happens when earwax is causing pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
- Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends heavily on your inner ear. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having trouble.
- Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re usually suffering from a condition called tinnitus. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to appear.
These are only a few. Ignored earwax can cause painful headaches. If you wear hearing aids, excess earwax can interfere with them. This means that you may think your hearing aids are having problems when the real problem is a bit too much earwax.
Can earwax affect your hearing?
The quick answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent issues linked to excess earwax. Usually producing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax builds up in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting very far. Your hearing will usually go back to normal after the wax is cleared out.
But if the buildup becomes severe, long term damage can appear. The same is true of earwax-related tinnitus. It’s usually not permanent. But the longer the extra earwax sticks around (that is, the longer you ignore the symptoms), the bigger the risk of long-term damage.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
If you want to protect your hearing, then it makes sense to keep an eye on your earwax. In many instances, earwax accumulation is caused not by excess production but by incorrect cleaning (for instance, blockage is frequently a result of cotton swabs, which tend to push the earwax further in instead of removing it).
Frequently, the wax has gotten hard, thick, and unmovable without professional treatment. You’ll be able to start hearing again after you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the right way.