When you shower, always remember to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you unavoidably use your “parent voice”. Maybe when you were a kid you even remember your parents telling you to do it. As you get wrapped up in past nostalgia, that sort of memory can take you back to simpler times.
But that advice can be rather helpful. Out-of-control earwax buildup can cause a significant number of problems, especially for your hearing. Even worse, this organic substance can harden in place making it difficult to clean out. In other words, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
We get it, earwax is not the most pleasing of substances. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But earwax does serve a purpose. Produced by special glands in your ear and pushed outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dust and dirt out of your ears.
So your ears will stay clean and healthy when they produce the right amount of earwax. However counterintuitive it seems, the truth is that earwax itself is not a sign of bad hygiene.
An excessive amount of earwax is where the problem begins. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a bit challenging to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax begins to outweigh its usefulness (literally).
What does excess earwax do?
So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, accumulates, can lead to several problems. Here are a few:
- Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can trap fluid where it shouldn’t be.
- Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re usually suffering from a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.
- Earache: One of the most prevalent signs of excess earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt a lot (though, sometimes it can). This is normally a result of the earwax creating pressure someplace it shouldn’t.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is essential to your balance. So when excess ear wax causes your inner ear to get out of whack, your balance can suffer, causing dizziness.
This list is only the beginning. Headaches and pain can occur because of unchecked earwax accumulation. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So too much earwax might make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.
Can earwax impact your hearing?
The quick answer is yes. One of the most common problems associated with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it produces 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 there can be long-term damage caused by accumulated earwax, particularly if the buildup gets extreme enough. The same goes for earwax-caused tinnitus. It’s usually temporary. But the longer the excess earwax sticks around (that is, the longer you neglect the symptoms), the bigger the risk of long-term damage.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
It’s a good plan to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that leads to buildup in most instances (a cotton swab, for instance, will often compact the earwax in your ear instead of getting rid of it, eventually causing a blockage).
Often, the wax has become hardened, dense, and unmovable without professional treatment. You’ll be able to start hearing again as soon as you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct way.