Ear wax (cerumen) is an oily secretion formed by two types of
glands in the ear canal. It is composed of fat and dead skin cells
and is produced to trap debris that may enter the ear canal. An
"impaction" is the accumulation of excessive ear wax.
Impaction is commonly the result of misguided efforts to remove
ear wax. The use of cotton swabs, needles, bobby pins, etc. interferes
with the ear's self-cleaning mechanism and can potentially scratch
or puncture the skin. Such attempts to remove ear wax will usually
only push it further down the ear canal. Over time, the accumulated
wax will create an impaction.
people naturally develop impactions due to narrow or deformed ear
canals or skin disease near the ear and scalp.
are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of ear wax impaction are earache, hearing loss,
or both. Frequently there is a sudden decrease in hearing following
attempts to clean the ear or when water gets into the ear during
swimming, bathing or showering. This could be a sign that wax has
completely blocked the ear canal.
is it treated?
Impacted ear wax needs to be removed by a health care professional
who can "irrigate" the ear canal with water or wax- dissolving
substances or use an ear curette (a special ear cleaning instrument).
can you do?
If ear wax buildup is a recurrent problem, your health care provider
may recommend that you apply a wax-dissolving solution at home:
Lie on your left side. Using a bulb dropper, put a solution of
equal parts hydrogen peroxide and lukewarm water into your ear
canal every 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with water, repeat on
other side. Perform this daily for 3-4 days if wax persists.
- Debrox Drops can be purchased without prescription. Use as directed.
- An occasional (i.e., once a month) rinsing of the ear canals
with shampoo lather, followed by a clear water rinse, can be helpful.
Do not use this if you have an earache or are otherwise ill.
Never put anything into your ears unless you have been medically
advised to do so.
health care personnel:
if you have hearing loss.
- if you have redness, pain or swelling of the ear canal or discharge
from the ear.
- any time you are unsure about what to do.
to Common Ailments page
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