plugged ear

Just What Is Pesky Earwax All About?

In Blog by Upstate Hearing

Recently, a friend of UpState Hearing Instruments called Ken with an urgent question. “Help! My ear is so clogged with wax that I can’t hear out of it! What should I do?” Ken mentioned that some folks have had success with earwax removal drops or a visit to their primary caregiver to flush out the ear.

After the appointment, Ken received another call. “The wax is gone and I can hear again for the first time in weeks! I hear sounds that I almost forgot about. Is this what it’s like when people get hearing aids?” Well, sort of! Except sometimes people wait years before getting hearing aids, so the newly discovered sounds take weeks to adjust to.

Earwax is a frequent topic of discussion among our customers. It’s a little bit gross, but it’s a fact of life and let’s face it—everyone has it! Healthcare professionals refer to earwax as cerumen, and it is something that every ear produces. It actually has a very real and important purpose: catching dirt and debris to keep it out of your sensitive ear drum. It is created by glands in your outer ear canal and under normal circumstances it naturally dries and fall out, taking with it all the dust and other matter trapped within.

So I Can Just Swab It Out?
Absolutely not! Cerumen is such a simple substance and yet, it creates a lot of problems for a lot of different people. If you clean your ears with cotton swabs, you are actually pushing the cerumen deeper into the ear and closer to your ear drum. Over time, you can pack so much wax into the ear canal that it affects your hearing. Furthermore, if you push your cotton swab too far into your ear canal, you can actually puncture your ear drum, which can cause persistent pain and hearing loss

So Just How Should I Clean My Ears Then?
The easy answer is, you shouldn’t have to, since our ears are naturally self-cleaning. A small amount of earwax is normal and it should stay there. However, if you just can’t help yourself, the safest and most effective method is to use a washcloth to carefully clean the outer ear, but be sure not to insert it into the ear canal. What if you are one of those people that produce far more earwax then necessary? Oftentimes people will choose a wax removal kit from the pharmacy; some go to the walk-in clinic or family doctor. When the wax is heavily impacted we suggest visiting an ENT.

What If My Ears Are Itchy?
Unsurprisingly, when people remove a natural substance that is meant to exist in the human body, it can cause problems. When the natural lubricating and moisturizing factor of ear wax is absent, people are known to experience itchy ears, caused by a dry and irritated ear canal. Just another reason to let the earwax be!

What Do I Do If I Think I Have Wax Buildup?
Is it becoming harder and harder to hear? Is there a persistent ringing in your ears? Are you experiencing frequent earaches? Any of these situations could be caused by wax buildup. A hearing professional can easily check for wax buildup, injuries, or other causes of hearing loss.

What About Earwax on My Hearing Aids?
Any buildup of earwax on a hearing aid can cause feedback, reduce its effectiveness, and even cause damage to the hearing aid. In fact, manufacturers have quoted that up to 70 percent of the hearing aids that are returned for repair have a problem stemming from earwax build up. Components can become degraded due to the acids found in earwax. For the sake of your hearing aids living a long and healthy life, keep them clean using the following steps: First, wipe external surfaces with a soft cloth. You probably received a special tool and/or brush for cleaning away wax on the speaker. It is very important to carefully follow provided instructions so as not to damage the hearing aid. Everyone is different as far as how much dirt, perspiration, and wax exposure they are expose to, so follow the cleaning schedule. We have found a brief brushing of the speaker and microphone openings are the most effective. Remember to replace things like the wax trap and domes every few months or as needed. The professionals at UpState Hearing Instruments are always happy to clean your hearing aids at no cost.

Hearing aids are an investment towards better hearing, and therefore a better life. The few minutes it takes each day to keep them clean will also keep them functioning for years to come. Give us a call in the Redding office at (530) 243-7397, or in Chico at (530) 893-4327 for questions or more information.