What You Need to Understand About Earwax Accumulation

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

When you shower, always remember to clean your ears. It’s difficult not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe when you were a kid you even remember your parents telling you to do it. That’s the sort of memory that can take you back to simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.

But that advice can be rather helpful. Out-of-control earwax buildup can cause a significant number of issues, particularly for your hearing. And on top of that, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really difficult to clean. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clear.

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 have a purpose. Earwax is produced by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dust and dirt.

So your ears will remain clean and healthy when they generate the right amount of earwax. However counterintuitive it sounds, the reality is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of bad hygiene.

The problems start when your ears generate too much earwax. And it can be somewhat challenging to know if the amount of earwax being generated is healthy or too much.

What is the consequence of excess earwax?

So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, builds up, can cause several problems. Here are a few:

  • Infection: Infections can be the consequence of surplus earwax. If fluid builds up, it can get trapped behind impacted earwax.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends heavily on your inner ear. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can be affected, causing dizziness.
  • Earache: One of the most common signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt too much (though, in some cases it can). This is normally a result of the earwax producing pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is an affliction where you hear a phantom buzzing or ringing in your ears. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax accumulates inside your ear.

This list is just the beginning. Headaches and discomfort can happen because of unchecked earwax accumulation. Excessive earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax may make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.

Can earwax affect your hearing?

Well, yes it can. One of the most common issues associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it causes a blockage of sound causing a form of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. Your hearing will usually return to normal after the wax is cleaned out.

But if the accumulation becomes extreme, long term damage can develop. And tinnitus is also usually temporary but when earwax blockage persists, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

It’s a good plan to keep track of your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that leads to buildup in most instances (for instance, blockage is frequently caused by cotton swabs, which will press the earwax further in instead of getting rid of it).

It will usually call for professional removal of the wax that has become solidified to the point that you can’t remove it. The sooner you get that treatment, the sooner you’ll be capable of hearing again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start cleaning your ears the correct way).


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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