Everyone’s ear produces wax. Normally the wax moves slowly to the outside of the ear where it is washed away. But the wax can sometimes build up and block the ear, and this is when it becomes a problem.
Wax covering the eardrum can make it hard to hear. The eardrum is a thin layer of membrane (skin) that stretches across the walls of the ear canal. It transmits sound from outside in the form of vibrations to the inside of the ear.
People who wear hearing aids or use ear plugs are more likely to get problematic ear wax. These can stop the natural flow of ear wax, causing it to build up and harden over time. When this happens, one may try to remove the wax themselves and can poke it further into the ear canal, making the problem worse. The ear might also get damaged in the process.
What are the symptoms?
The wax may be too much that one is unable to hear properly with the ear (or ears) involved.
There could be an ache in the ear particularly when the wax is hardened and improper removal is attempted.
A humming, buzzing or ringing in the ear (tinnitus) may also be present.
A feel of dizziness may occur in some situations.
What treatments work?
This involves pushing in warm water into the ear using a special syringe and the used water containing dislodged wax collected in a dish held close to the ear. The procedure is repeated several times until all the wax is out. Some ear drops may first be given to soften the wax before syringing.
Ear syringing is effective and isn’t usually painful. But it can be quite uncomfortable and can make one feel dizzy. The procedure may have to be repeated later if it doesn’t work at first.
If one has a hole in their eardrum, or if ear syringing fails, the wax may be removed using some instruments or suction devices.
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What will happen to me?
About three out of ten people with problematic ear wax find that the wax goes away on its own after a few days without any treatment. If this doesn’t happen, the wax may then be removed with ear syringing.
The hearing difficulty usually gets better after removal of the wax plug. But if hearing doesn’t improve, more investigations need to be done to find out the cause.