Earwax (cerumen) is a yellowish waxy substance produced by healthy ears. Earwax protects the ear from bacteria, water and foreign particles. It also assists in the cleaning and lubrication of the ear canal. Usually, excess wax is removed from the ear canal naturally. If a buildup does occur, the earwax will become hard and block the ear.
Causes of Earwax Blockage
A blockage of earwax is usually caused by an overproduction of earwax or insufficient cleaning. Surprisingly, the most common cause of a blockage is incorrect at-home earwax removal. Often, instead of cleaning out the earwax it is just pushed deeper inside the ear. Earphone and ear plug usage can also cause wax buildup, as the earphones can prevent earwax from naturally coming out of the ear canal.
Symptoms of Earwax Blockage
Earaches, a feeling of fullness in the ear, hearing loss and ringing in the ear (tinnitus) are all common signs of earwax blockage. If the earwax is not removed an infection can develop. This would include severe pain in the ear that does not subside and a fever. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor, as these may also be signs of a more serious condition.
How Does an ENT Treat an Earwax Block?
In order to diagnose a buildup of earwax, your doctor will need to look in your ear with a special magnifying instrument called an otoscope. Once diagnosed, your doctor can remove the wax buildup a few ways: with a small curved instrument called a curet or through suction. If this continues to be a problem, wax-removal medications may be recommended.
Call Burlington Ear Nose & Throat at (319) 752-2725 for more information or to schedule an appointment.