Earwax blockages

August 15, 2008 by Lobe and Martin Guilbert

Bouchon de cire

Yes, Q-tips are your ear’s worst enemy!

Although it isn’t an extreme threat, earwax blockages can be very disruptive, particularly if they affect your hearing. Several methods exist to prevent and remove them.

The ear canal’s skin contains glands which secrete a yellow substance called cerumen, more commonly known as earwax. Its purpose is to trap foreign particles and move them outside of the ear. Normally, earwax will naturally migrate out of the ear by itself, but in some circumstances it may accumulate inside. Earwax production will vary between individuals and throughout ones life. The use of Q-tips, which pushes earwax deeper into the ear canal, is one of the most frequent causes of earwax blockages. Other causes include: a small ear canal, an excessive production of earwax, the use of hearing aids and hearing protection.

Symptoms to watch out for!

Earwax blockages can lead to reduced hearing and a blocked ear sensation. In addition, the pressure applied to the ear canal may lead to ringing in the ears. The only way to confirm the presence of an earwax blockage is with an ear canal examination done by your doctor or a hearing healthcare professional: ENT doctor, audiologist or audioprosthetist. It’s otherwise impossible to know if an earwax blockage is responsible for your symptoms.

Keep in mind that you must consult your doctor, if you have any of the following symptoms: ear pain or an intense itch, vertigo or ear discharge.

Your ears clean themselves!

Your ears generally clean themselves; products for earwax removal should only be used if recommended by a medical professional. They shouldn’t be used simply to keep your ears clean. If you’ve had earwax blockages in the past, clean the outer orifice of the ear canal without using any Q-tip-like devices.

Your ear is lazy, here are some solutions:

The use of auricular solutions is reserved to those who frequently have earwax blockages and were advised to do so by their doctor or pharmacist.

In fact, various products containing diverse detergents exist for the removal of earwax. We call them ceruminolytics agents. These products soften earwax and facilitate its movement towards the outside of the ear. They shouldn’t be used in the presence of a tympanic membrane perforation and should be ceased if they lead to a painful or burning sensation. These ceruminolytic drops should only be used if recommended by a health professional.

Home remedies

You should know that you can replace commercial preparations by simply diluting an equal amount of water with one of the following substances: olive oil, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide. They soften wax and rarely irritate the ear canal. Take one of these preparations and apply 4 to 6 drops to the ear canal, twice a day, and repeat the process for 3 to 7 days.

If you have any questions concerning earwax blockages, don’t hesitate to speak with your pharmacist.