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Most people think of excess ear wax as a minor annoyance, but if too much wax builds up, it can lead to ear infections. While most individuals don’t have a problem with it, some people produce excess earwax that can even become impacted. In these situations, the irritation can lead to an earache and, in severe cases, an infection.

Is Ear Wax Healthy?

While too much ear wax can cause problems, ear wax serves a vital purpose. It lubricates and protects the ear canal, keeping out dirt, debris, and irritants. This helps prevent damage to your eardrum. Because ear wax also has antibacterial properties, if you don’t have any earwax, your ear canal can either dry out, get too much water and debris in it, or become infected.

Can People Have Too Much Ear Wax?

If your body produces too much ear wax or doesn’t have a way to get rid of it, you might develop impacted ear wax. This is when ear wax has built up and becomes packed into your ear canal. This can lead to earaches, difficulty hearing, and the sensation of things sounding like you are underwater. 

Several symptoms may indicate you have impacted ear wax, including:

  • An earache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Itching in the ear canal
  • An ear infection
  • Feeling like you have water in the ear
  • Vertigo, or feeling unbalanced or dizzy
  • A cough not caused by illness
  • A hearing aid that isn’t working right

But removing all the wax from your ear can cause other problems, as can trying to clean out your ear canal with cotton swabs or other tools. Swabs may push the ear wax deeper into the canal, causing an impaction.

Why Does Too Much Ear Wax Build Up?

There are many reasons ear wax can build up. Swimmers often overproduce ear wax to protect their ear canal from too much water. If you wear hearing aids or earbuds frequently, these can prevent the wax from naturally falling out of your ear canal. Short or especially hairy ear canals and other physical characteristics can also lead to excess ear wax. People who have Lupus, eczema, osteomata, and other illnesses are also more prone to ear wax buildup.

Can Ear Wax Cause Ear Infections?

Impacted ear wax can and does lead to ear infections for some. This is more likely in people with other ear problems, compromised immune systems, and the elderly. The symptoms of an ear infection can include:

  • Earache, especially if it is severe
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Coughing 
  • Fever
  • Vertigo
  • Hearing loss
  • A strong smell coming from the ear

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms above, call Sonora Hearing Care and set up an appointment with an audiologist today.  By collaborating with your other medical care providers, they will be able to determine whether your problem is an ear infection caused by too much ear wax. They will help treat the infection with antibiotics and safely clean your ear canal without damaging the eardrum.

Ear Wax Removal Tips

A good way for you to prevent ear infections is to make sure too much ear wax doesn’t build up in your ear canals. For most people, this occurs naturally, with old ear wax being pushed out of the ear as new ear wax is produced. But for some, ear wax removal may be needed to prevent impaction. It may be tempting, but you should not stick a cotton swab or other object into your ear to clean it. This can make the impaction worse, pushing the wax farther into your ear canal. It can also damage your eardrum.

Irrigating your ear canal with water or a safe fluid, then allowing it to run out of your ear, is one way to prevent wax buildup. Gently drop distilled water, baby oil, hydrogen peroxide, or pure almond oil into your ear canal, then allow it to drain out of your ear. There are also drops available at drugstores that help soften ear wax. If these remedies don’t help, call Sonora Hearing Care and set up an appointment with an audiologist. Your audiologist can use suction, irrigation, or a surgical instrument for safe ear wax removal. They will also give you aftercare tips to help prevent future ear wax problems.

You can reduce your risk of ear infections by keeping your ears in good health. This includes making sure impacted ear wax doesn’t block your ear canal. While ear wax is healthy, too much of it is not a good thing. A Sonora Health Care audiologist can help clean your ear, treat infection, and help with any resulting hearing loss, getting you back to your quality of life.