Our team’s expertise in pediatric audiology enables us to carefully evaluate children's hearing abilities and ensure that any hearing loss is detected early and appropriate interventions are taken.

How To Solve Your Earwax Buildup

by | Sep 20, 2022 | Earwax, Patient Resources

Are your ears feeling blocked right now? Does your hearing seem weaker than normal? Or maybe you even have an earache too. 

If that’s the case, one possible explanation is that earwax has built up in one or both of your ear canals. 

Fear not, some earwax is a good thing. Your body makes it to trap dust, dirt, and other foreign materials so they can’t get too far into your ears. Earwax even has anti-bacterial properties so harmful bacteria don’t reach your eardrum or inner ear.  

However, too much earwax can be a problem. 

If you have excessive earwax blocking an ear canal, symptoms include a temporary or a sudden hearing loss in the affected ear, a stuffy feeling or even a headache, dizziness, or other balance issues, and ear pain. 

Sometimes your body simply makes too much earwax before it can be washed away naturally. 

However, blockages often happen when people use cotton swabs in their ears. Rather than cleaning or unblocking the ear canal, cotton swabs tend to push your earwax even deeper inside. 

The good news is that this problem is easily remedied. We’ll go over what solutions to try (and what to avoid), but first a quick word on the hearing loss aspect of this problem: 

Hearing loss patients often become concerned about their condition and jump to premature conclusions. They believe they need an expensive hearing aid, only to discover the culprit is an earwax buildup. 

This is a good reason to NOT buy an over-the-counter hearing aid too quickly. That’s because such devices don’t require a physical examination to look for earwax. Without that inspection, you might wind up buying an expensive device you don’t actually need. 

So, check for earwax first.  

If you suspect your hearing problem is earwax-related, but you don’t want to visit a doctor or an audiologist yet, there are some remedies worth trying at home. 

There are also a couple of remedies you should avoid. 

Don’t Use These Earwax Removal Remedies  

Ear Candling 

We strongly discourage the use of any ear candling product. These candles are very dangerous and won’t actually clear up any blockages. 

People who sell, manufacture, and use ear candles say that ear candling creates a suction effect to remove earwax and “toxins,” but there is absolutely no medical proof to support this idea.  

Any evidence-based study of ear candling has shown that not only is earwax not removed, but also soot is deposited into the ear. This makes the problem worse. 

There are additional dangers too. You can burn your face or neck. Or you can get scalded by drips of hot wax into your ears. These will cause pain and damage and now you will need medical treatment for what was once a much simpler problem. 

Please don’t use ear candling under any circumstances. 

Cotton Swab Probing 

We’ve mentioned this already as a cause of earwax buildup.  

That’s because a cotton swab often pushes wax deeper into your ear canal. And if you probe too deeply, you can damage your eardrum and other sensitive parts of your ear. 

It seems safe to stick a swab in and wiggle it around, but it really isn’t. And it’s not an effective solution. 

As with ear candling, avoid using cotton swabs in your ears. They’re likely to do more harm than good. 

Try These Remedies Instead 

Over-the-Counter Ear Drops 

Over-the-counter ear drops are useful for very mild cases of earwax buildup, but that’s about it. 

But how do you know if you have only a bit of extra earwax? You don’t. That’s why these over-the-counter solutions are often ineffective. 

After all, if the earwax buildup is bad enough that you’re noticing a hearing loss, then you probably have a significant amount blocking one or both ear canals. 

So should you try over-the-counter ear drops? 

It might make a difference. What’s more, these ear drops usually don’t cost much, so you’re not wasting a great deal of money. 

The worst case scenario with over-the-counter ear drops is that you’re delaying proper professional treatment for a more serious earwax buildup. 

Olive Oil and Related Oils 

Using olive oil, baby oil, or mineral oil to dislodge earwax is a home remedy that’s safe as long as you don’t use too much, have a ruptured eardrum, or a history of allergies to that specific oil. 

The oil softens the wax causing your hearing loss over several days of repeated applications. With diligence and a bit of luck, the earwax can unclog and fall out of your ear. 

However, the oil has the same limitations as over-the-counter ear drops: it’s usually effective for only a relatively small amount of extra earwax. It also takes time to work. 

But if you’re patient and don’t have a lot of earwax to remove, any of these oils are good solutions to try. 

An Audiologist 

Blocked ears are a sign the home remedy approaches (even the safe ones) aren’t a good option anymore. 

That’s why visiting an audiologist is the safest and most suitable solution if you’re already experiencing a hearing loss. A trained professional has access to proper medical equipment, such as an otoscope, to look into your ears. This examination can quickly determine how much earwax buildup you have.  

Then your audiologist will use an ear irrigation device to gently flush out the compacted wax. This process uses regulated water and pressure to remove fluid or debris. This is a pain-free and comfortable earwax removal procedure that’s extremely safe, risk-free, and non-invasive. 

And it often takes no more than three to five minutes to complete the job. That’s how fast your hearing can be restored if excessive earwax is the culprit. 

What’s more, if earwax is NOT the issue causing your hearing loss, then you already have the attention of a trained audiologist to begin a sophisticated diagnosis that’s personalized to your needs. 

No matter what the situation, we’ll have a solution that will help you here at Audiological Services. 

To ask a question or schedule an appointment, please contact us through this website or give us a call right now. 

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Gabrielle Tabb Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Tabb received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders in 2016 from Texas State University. Following this, she attended the University of North Texas where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2020 with her Doctorate in Audiology. While in graduate school, Dr. Tabb had various clinical rotations in the DFW area, including UT Southwestern Medical Center, Bonham VA, multiple ENT locations, educational audiology, and several private practices. She completed her externship at OU Physicians Department of Head and Neck Surgery, rotating through the adult and pediatric clinics. Following her externship, she worked as an audiologist primarily in the OU Children’s Physicians location where she was able to serve medically complex children of all ages. Originally from South Texas, she is overjoyed to be able to serve her fellow Texans once again. Dr. Tabb is licensed to practice audiology in the State of Texas. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-A) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and is a member of Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA). She is passionate about providing the upmost hearing healthcare to people of all ages. She enjoys opening a world of sound to children who are in a crucial stage of speech-language development and adults who believed themselves to be relegated to a life of “social distance” and isolation because of their hearing loss. Dr. Tabb is dedicated to educating patients and their families about the effects of untreated hearing loss on social/emotional health, mental health, and communication. When she is not working, she enjoys playing with her dogs (Winston and Duke), spending time with her husband and family, gardening, cooking, watching movies, and reading.