WHAT IS AN EARWAX BLOCKAGE?
Earwax blockages, also called cerumen impaction or earwax build-up, are common and usually harmless, although they can still be unpleasant. What are the causes? What are the symptoms? What is the best way of removing and preventing them in the future?
How does an earwax blockage form?
An earwax blockage is the result of an abnormal accumulation of wax within the outer ear canal.
Ears naturally produce a protective and antiseptic waxy secretion called cerumen . Although useful to our health in moderate quantities, it is potentially harmful in large amounts: a hard, compacted mass can form in the ear canal, obstructing it. This results in the formation of an earwax blockage**.
Earwax blockage: symptoms and causes.
What are the symptoms?
Common and usually harmless, earwax blockages can still be unpleasant. They can cause the following symptoms:
- Reduced hearing,
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear,
- Irritation, itching or pain in the ear canal,
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)*.
What are the causes?
Excess production of earwax in the ear canal can be caused by:
- Regular use of earplugs or hearing aids,
- Incorrect use of cotton buds,
- Regularly being in a dusty environment...**
Also, some people naturally produce more earwax, for no apparent reason.
Earwax blockages can also be caused when the ear’s natural ability to expel earwax is inhibited, for example when the ear canal is very narrow or hairy.
Finally, certain practices tend to pack wax deeper into the ear canal, causing blockages. That’s why cotton buds should not be inserted into the ear!**
What’s the best way of treating an earwax blockage?
Except in certain cases requiring a medical consultation, removing an earwax blockage can be done at home using a gentle ear solution available at pharmacies.
Consult your pharmacist, GP, or ENT specialist.
Warning: ear solution treatments are contraindicated in the event of a perforated eardrum or otitis.
If symptoms persist, please consult your doctor.
What’s the best way of preventing earwax blockages from forming?
Regular ear hygiene! Developing this habit moderates the amount of earwax in the ear canal.
As we mentioned earlier, avoid inserting small objects such as cotton buds into the ear canal as these push wax towards the eardrum, encouraging the formation of earwax blockages*.
Finally, wax can expand under pressure (on a plane) or on contact with water (swimming, shower, bath)**.
*Justin O. Sevy ; Anumeha Singh. Cerumen Impaction. 2017
**Définition, causes et symptômes du bouchon de cérumen. 2019. https://www.ameli.fr/