Cerumen, also known as earwax, is naturally produced by the glands in the ears to lubricate the ear canals and keep dust and debris from getting too far down in the ear canal.
Cerumen typically clears itself from the ears, but in some instances can accumulate and cause a blockage, especially if you wear earmolds or hearing aids.
Symptoms of a cerumen blockage include:
- Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
- Decreased hearing
- Feeling of ear fullness
If a blockage occurs, it may need to be removed. Some home remedies may work but there Is always chance of pushing the wax further inside and make matters worse.
Earwax removal methods to avoid
People commonly use cotton swabs to try and remove earwax or dislodge a blockage. However, this can sometimes cause more problems as cotton swabs may push the blockage further down into the ear canal, risking even more damage to the ear.
Cotton swabs themselves can also be accidentally inserted too far into the ear canal and can compact wax further or puncture your eardrum.
Physicians generally agree that cotton swabs are a bad idea for removing earwax and should only be used on the outer portions of your ear. You should never insert cotton swabs or any small object into your ear canal.
Removal at your hearing provider’s office
If the earwax blockage is more significant, we can remove it at our office. We typically use three methods to remove earwax: irrigation, or curettage, or suction.
Irrigation is the most common method your hearing specialist will use to remove blockages. Unlike at-home earwax removal kits, we may use stronger earwax removal medications in conjunction with irrigation. Carbamide peroxide (Commercially available as Debrox) is typically the main ingredient in these medications.
Another method is curettage, which involves the use of a curette. A curette is a long, curved tool that may also be used with suction to remove cerumen from the ear canal.
In some cases when cerumen is impacted, there will be some discomfort or pain. There are risks involved with any procedure but it rarely causes serious injury.
If the cerumen is soft, sometimes suctioning is the easiest way. However, in patients with tinnitus or sensitivity to loud sounds, it should be done with caution. Removing earwax doesn’t have to be painful and should bring you relief.