Earwax. It’s one of those things that everyone gets and no one likes to talk about.
But if left untreated, a steady build-up of earwax over time can cause bigger health issues including hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and dizziness.
The delicate nature of the ear means getting rid of ear wax can be tricky, though, so it’s important to understand the cause of the build-up before deciding on the best treatment.
The glands in our ears produce wax called cerumen, more commonly known as earwax.
Earwax is vital to maintaining healthy ears because it protects the ear canal by preventing dust, dirt and bacteria building up inside and causing infection.
The small glands inside our ears secrete wax, which slowly makes its way out of the ear opening and, in theory, falls away naturally as new wax is secreted in its place.
The most common causes of earwax blockages are self-inflicted by people using cotton buds or other items to ‘clean’ their ears. Instead of removing the wax, it is often pushed further backward into the ear canal, compacting it tightly and causing a blockage.
Another common cause is having glands that produce too much wax, which can eventually harden and lead to a blockage.
Symptoms that point towards an earwax blockage include:
Older adults that have conductive hearing loss – a problem conducting sound waves through the ear – are often found to be suffering from earwax blockages that are causing the issue. A common sign of this is that sounds become increasingly muffled or ‘distant’.
Hearing aids can also cause wax to get stuck inside the ear, which is why regular checkups are recommended for wearers.
There are many natural methods you can use to loosen and remove wax, but you should always consult a doctor before attempting to do it yourself.
Some of the most popular natural remedies can be done with ingredients straight out of pantry. You can follow the same method for whichever ingredient you choose.
Step 1: Soften the earwax
To soften the wax, use an eyedropper to apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin or hydrogen peroxide in your ear canal. This will help loosen hardened wax and coax it out of the ear canal.
Step 2: Irrigate
After a day or two, when the wax is softened, use a rubber-bulb syringe to gently squirt warm water into your ear canal. Tilt your head and pull your outer ear up and back to straighten your ear canal. When you’ve finished irrigating your ear, tip your head to the opposite side to let the water drain out.
Step 3: Dry off
After irrigating, gently dry your outer ear with a towel. Do not use a cotton bud to try to dig out the wax as this can push it further into the ear, causing more damage. Instead, the wax should fall out on its own.
While natural remedies can be effective, they should not be used if you have an ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, or have had a medical procedure done to your ear.
You can also ask your GP to remove excess wax. Most doctors will use a small, curved instrument called a curette to scrape away the wax, or a suction device, or the irrigation method.
These procedures are quick and effective and can be done during a regular consultation with your doctor.
You’ll likely notice the difference in your hearing immediately after having excess earwax removed.
One of the most effective ways to test how well it worked is to do the online hearing test offered on the Australian Hearing website before and after the wax removal.