10 Symptoms Of Earwax Build-Up

By james
Reviewed: Dr. Mera
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Earwax, medically referred to as cerumen, provides a valuable service to the body by protecting the canal and inner parts of the ear from dirt, hair, bacteria growth, and the accumulation of dead skin cells. Produced by glands, it is nature’s way of lubricating and cleaning this channel.

Earwax should normally dry up and fall out of the ear. In some cases, however, the ear may produce excessive amounts of wax, or a person may have an oddly shaped ear canal that makes impactions occur.

Excessive earwax can cause health complications that can require medical intervention due to the discomfort and possibility of infections. While some at-home remedies can be effective, it is best to see a doctor who can get a better view and apply proper interventions. Here are some symptoms that may necessitate a doctor’s visit.

Symptom #1: Earache

As excessive earwax builds up in the canal, it hardens to form a plug. When the ear becomes blocked, it is common to get the sensation of earache. This symptom has also been described as a feeling of fullness in the ear. Relief is often quickly achieved when the earwax is cleaned out.

Pain can also be a symptom of infection. The buildup of earwax tends to make the canal more vulnerable to infection thanks to the retention of dirt and bacteria on the surface. If a person makes the mistake of trying to remove this earwax with a cotton bud, they can easily scratch the surface and provide a means for bacteria to penetrate the bloodstream.

Earwax Build-Up

Symptom #2: Hearing Loss

This normally presents gradually, presumably worsening as the buildup continues. Experiencing a failure in one of your key senses can be frightening, but do not worry, this is just a temporary symptom that is easily corrected once the ear is cleaned out. Again, do not try to use instruments to open up the canal as this can encourage an infection to occur.

This symptom is particularly common amongst those that use hearing aids. These devices block the passage of earwax out of the canal, creating a dam. Sometimes, the hearing loss can seem sudden as soundwaves technically need little space to get to the eardrum. This means that you may notice this complication just as full blockage takes place.

Symptom #3: Tinnitus

Often described as a loud ringing in the ear, tinnitus can cause a lot of discomforts and disrupt focus. You may also experience it in the form of a buzzing, clicking, or hissing sound. The pitch and loudness can vary from person to person. It can also be a persistent noise or occur rarely.

While it is a very common symptom, affecting as many as 15–20% of people, it is easily treatable and you should experience improvement once the earwax buildup has been removed. This irritation to the eardrum is often coupled with hearing loss. It can however also be a symptom to something more or less serious, hence the importance of seeing a doctor for correct diagnosis.

Earwax Build-Up

Symptom #4: Dizziness

Particularly common amongst older sufferers, dizziness is a common sign of earwax buildup. The blockage often induces a feeling of vertigo, whereby you may feel like the room is spinning or that you are unbalanced. This problem is immediately alleviated when the earwax is removed.

This sensation of being unbalanced can be particularly stressful to elderly people, as it is often accompanied by hearing loss. They feel unable to get up and walk around properly and it can exacerbate other conditions like dementia. It is important for regular ear checks to be performed, especially if you make use of hearing aids.

Symptom #5: Feeling of Fluid Retention

As the earwax accumulates inside the external ear canal, water can start to fill the ear as well and become trapped. This event will lead to the feeling of having water inside the affected ear.

This sensation can become very annoying but usually resolves relatively easily once the earwax buildup is treated.

Earwax Build-Up

Symptom #6: Feeling of Fullness

Patients suffering from an earwax blockage will experience a weird sensation of fullness inside the affected ear. It is due to the fact that the ear canal is filled with earwax, causing this annoying sensation to appear.

It is important to seek medical attention rather than try to solve the blockage on your own, as it could lead to further complications.

Symptom #7: Headaches

This is a non-specific and uncommon symptom associated with earwax buildup. The blockage can cause earache to appear and due to the vicinity between the ear and the head, the pain may radiate causing a headache.

It is usually mild and resolves quickly after the earwax buildup is treated.

Earwax Build-Up

Symptom #8: Discharge

The earwax is produced regularly inside the ear and normally it will not be a problem, but sometimes, certain people can overproduce it, causing it to buildup and leading to a blockage. Due to the increased production of earwax, it may cause a discharge from the affected ear.

Ear discharge is a non-specific symptom and it can be caused by many conditions, some of which can be serious. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis.

Symptom #9: Smelly Earwax

Earwax is meant to flow out of the ear and fall off with time. However, when it gets stuck, hardens, and starts to build up a blockage, it can start to develop a noticeable odor. The dirt, hair, and bacteria it is supposed to get rid of festers in the ear canal adding to the smell.

If an infection takes root, whether bacterial, viral or fungal, it will cause inflammation, fluid buildup, and eventual discharge that will worsen this symptom. If you do practice good hygiene, but find yourself suffering from an odd odor seemingly coming from the ear, do take time to visit a doctor so this can be examined and diagnosed.

Symptom #10: Itchiness

Itchiness is a very uncomfortable sensation that can be dangerous with earwax blockage. This is because it can encourage you to stick something sharp into your ear in an attempt to soothe the feeling and deal with the obstruction. Items such as cotton buds, pens, and safety pins are commonly used and often scratch the surface of the ear canal.

This action can encourage other symptoms like infections. If they dig deep and hard enough, they can also perforate the eardrum, causing even worse problems. Willpower to resist is very important here as you take time to go see a doctor who can treat the problem safely.

Earwax Build-Up

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