When you take a shower, always remember to clean your ears. Whenever you say that, you inevitably use your “parent voice”. Maybe when you were a kid you even remember your parents telling you to do it. As you get caught up in past nostalgia, that kind of memory can take you back to simpler times.
But it’s also great advice. Uncontrolled earwax buildup can cause a significant number of problems, particularly for your hearing. Still worse, this organic substance can solidify in place making it challenging to clean out. In a nutshell, the cleaner you keep your ears, the better off you’ll be.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
Earwax is, well, sort of gross. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But it’s actually essential for your ear’s health. Earwax is produced by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dirt and dust.
Essentially, the right amount of earwax can help keep your ears healthy and clean. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself is not a sign of bad hygiene.
The problems start when your ears produce too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to tell when a healthy amount of earwax starts to outweigh its advantages (literally).
What does accumulated earwax do?
So, what kind of impact does excess earwax have? There are several problems that could arise due to out-of-control earwax or earwax that builds up over time. Here are a few:
- Earache: One of the most common signs of accumulated earwax is an earache. It doesn’t have to hurt too much (though, in some cases it can). This typically occurs when earwax is causing pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
- Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can become trapped behind impacted earwax.
- Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Tinnitus symptoms can show up or get worse when earwax accumulates inside your ear.
- Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends greatly on your inner ear. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance problems when your inner ear is having problems.
These are just a few. Neglected earwax can trigger painful headaches. Excessive earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you might think your hearing aids are malfunctioning when the real problem is a bit too much earwax.
Can earwax impact your hearing?
The short answer is yes. Hearing loss is one of the most common problems connected to excess earwax. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it produces a blockage of sound causing a kind of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. Your hearing will typically go back to normal after the wax is cleaned out.
But there can be sustained damage caused by excess earwax, particularly if the buildup gets severe enough. The same goes for earwax-related tinnitus. It’s usually not permanent. But the longer the extra earwax hangs around (that is, the longer you disregard the symptoms), the greater the risk of long-term damage.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
It’s a good plan to keep an eye on your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. In many circumstances, earwax accumulation is caused not by excess production but by incorrect cleaning (for example, blockage is often a result of cotton swabs, which will push the earwax further in rather than removing it).
Often, the wax has become hardened, thick, and unable to clear without professional help. You’ll be able to start hearing again after you get that treatment and then you can start over, cleaning your ears the correct way.
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