Problems with Ear Wax

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance secreted by glands which line the ear. It actually has a number of purposes, ranging from protecting the ear from infections to lubricating the ear canal. It may, however, become impacted in the ear, causing potential problems like obscured hearing. In these instances, medical attention may be required to remove the buildup of ear wax.

There are two types of ear wax. Wet ear wax is, as you might imagine, wet or at least moist to the touch, and it ranges in color from golden to dark brown. Dry ear wax, on the other hand, is yellow to gray and flaky. It is common among Native Americans and some people of Asian descent.

One very important role of ear wax is its ability to clean the ear. It actually moves slowly through the ear canal, at around the same rate that fingernails grow, pushing out dirt and other materials. Once it reaches the outer edges of the ear, it is supposed to fall out on its own. Ear wax also lubricates the ear canal, preventing dryness and discomfort.

Ear wax typically falls out of a healthy ear canal by itself, but sometimes wax can build up in hearing aid wearers, because the device may block the ear canal.

Ear Wax

Ear Wax Solutions

If you suspect you have a problem with ear wax, it is best to have it removed by a doctor. Some doctors use pressurized water to remove deep wax. If the doctor is experienced, it might be OK. However, we think it’s better to use a wire loop under a strong headlamp to remove the wax gently. Another good option for removing the wax is via a small vacuum which sucks the wax from the ear canal. It is never advised to remove ear wax on your own.

As part of your initial evaluation, Hearing Professionals will perform an otoscopic examination to determine if you have a buildup of wax that may be obstructing your hearing.