Ear Wax Accumulation: What You Need to Understand

Woman suffering from earwax blockage applying ear drops herself

Don’t forget to wash your ears. Whenever you say that, you inevitably use your “parent voice”. Maybe you even remember getting that advice as a kid. 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 pretty helpful. Your hearing can be substantially impacted by out-of-control earwax. 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. That’s a viewpoint that most people share. 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.

Essentially, the correct amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. It might seem peculiar, but earwax doesn’t suggest poor hygiene.

Too much earwax is where the trouble begins. And it can be somewhat difficult to know if the amount of earwax being created is healthy or too much.

What does accumulated earwax do?

So, what type of impact does excess earwax present? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, accumulates, can cause a number of issues. Those issues include:

  • Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. In some cases, that’s because the earwax can trap fluid where it shouldn’t be.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom buzzing or ringing in your ears. Earwax accumulation can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to appear.
  • Earache: An earache is one of the most common indications of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can really hurt. This is normally a result of the earwax producing pressure somewhere it shouldn’t.
  • Dizziness: Your ability to manage balance depends greatly on your inner ear. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance issues when your inner ear is having issues.

These are only a few. Ignored earwax can trigger painful headaches. Too much earwax can interfere with the functionality of hearing aids. So excessive earwax may make you think your hearing aids are malfunctioning.

Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?

The short 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 known as conductive hearing loss. The problem usually goes away when the earwax is removed, and usually, your hearing will return to normal.

But if the buildup becomes severe, long term damage can appear. The same is true of earwax-caused tinnitus. It’s typically temporary. But the longer the excess earwax sticks around (that is, the longer you neglect the symptoms), the greater the risk of long-term damage.

Prevention, treatment, or both?

If you want to protect your hearing, then it seems logical to keep an eye on your earwax. It’s incorrect cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most situations (for instance, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which tend to press the earwax further in instead of getting rid of it).

Frequently, the wax has become hardened, 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 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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