Earwax is a normal and healthy substance produced by our ears. It’s responsible for cleaning, protecting and lubricating our ears, whilst also preventing dust, dirt and bugs from entering our ear canals.
Chewing and movement of the jaw loosens wax at the external ear after it is carried outward by a ‘conveyor belt’ motion of the skin layer. This is how the ear is meant to self-clean and is a process which works well for the majority of the population. Wax naturally migrates out of the ear as it builds and falls out once it reaches the external ear.
However, there are some anatomical reasons and lifestyle choices which can interrupt this self-cleaning process. When this occurs, you may find yourself experiencing a blocked ear due to built-up ear wax. Our experts have compiled some of the most common reasons blocked ears occur, along with effective remedies and treatments.
Blocked Ear Causes
There are many things that can contribute to getting blocked ears; genetics, an overproduction of ear wax, sticking foreign objects in your ears and wearing hearing aids to name a few. Here are the most common causes for blocked ears seen at Earworx.
An Australian summer typically goes hand-in-hand with hours spent in the water. Unfortunately, with increased exposure to swimming, this can result in symptoms of ‘swimmer’s ear’. One of the causes of swimmer’s ear is water becoming trapped behind built-up wax after swimming. This can lead to ‘otitis externa’ or acute inflammation of the external ear canal. A trip to the GP is required for diagnosis and management of otitis externa and therapy can include topical treatments such as prescription ear drops, keeping the ear dry, and an initial ear clean to allow the drops to better penetrate the ear canal . The ear may be inflamed, sore and itchy as well as feeling blocked.
Placing foreign objects into the ears
One of the most common causes of a blocked ear can occur when built-up wax in the outer ear is pushed deeper into the ear canal through ineffective ear cleaning techniques. This often worsens symptoms and can lead to a complete blockage. The insertion of small objects into the ear canal, such as- cotton tips, ear candles, tweezers, or even fingers, can push wax deeper into the ear canal. This can push wax down the ear canal and potentially on to the eardrum. This can cause a feeling of blockage and a dramatic reduction in hearing. Most ears are able to effectively remove wax via the ears self-cleaning mechanism. If the ear blocks with wax, use softening drops (if you know that there is no hole in your ear drum) that can be purchased from the chemist, which can soften and loosen the wax. If this does not remove the wax, or create a gap in the wax and provide relief from the blocked ear, seek the advice of a professional at Earworx.
Hearing Aids, Earphones and Ear Plugs
If you wear hearing aids, frequently use earphones or use earplugs, you may find yourself experiencing blocked ears. Anything inserted into the ear regularly can interrupt the self-cleaning process of the ear and prevent wax from being carried out naturally. Hearing aids are essential for many to hear, as are earplugs to protect our hearing. Educating ourselves about the symptoms of earwax build-up will enable individuals to seek help as symptoms present themselves and hopefully prevent a blocked ear from occurring.
Being genetically predisposed to excessive earwax production can cause blocked ears. In the same way that narrow, bendy or hairy ear canals can cause the wax to build up, overproducing ear wax can cause symptoms of a blocked ear. Recognising symptoms of earwax build-up can help prevent blockages.
Middle Ear Issues
A recent cold, sinus or even a bout of hay fever can block the eustachian tube; a tube that sits between the back of your nose and the middle ear (behind the eardrum). As a result, the middle ear can become filled with fluid instead of air and even become infected. The ear will feel blocked but you may also feel pain or even develop a temperature; medical assessment is required.
Blocked Ear Symptoms
There are many symptoms to look out for when considering if you might have blocked ears. The symptoms can vary in severity depending on how impacted the ear is and whether the earwax blockage has caused an infection. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Weakened hearing
When experiencing blocked ears, it is important to try and avoid sticking anything into your ear as this may push wax further down the canal or cause trauma to the canal or ear drum. Whilst the discomfort of a blocked ear can be frustrating, avoid cotton tips, ear candles, ‘twisty’ ear cleaners and pushing other devices into the ear canal.
Softening drops (or cerumenolytics) are a home remedy that Earworx recommend for easing the discomfort associated with an ear blocked with wax. They both soften and break the wax down. Softening drops may not remove the wax in its entirety but they may help to create a gap in the wax and provide some symptom relief. For small amounts of wax the drops may even break the wax down enough to be carried out of the ear via the self-cleaning mechanism. For more severe earwax blockages, softening drops can be used as a preliminary step prior to receiving professional manual removal.
* Please note that this method is not suitable for those with grommets or a perforated ear drum – if you are unsure whether or not you’ve sustained damage to your ear drum or whether your eardrum is intact, seek medical advice before using softening drops.
If softening drops don’t completely alleviate your blocked ear symptoms, the next step is to consult a professional. In most cases manual removal will be required to treat the earwax build up.
Micro-suction is a safe and effective process provided by Earworx clinics across Australia; the largest dedicated professional earwax removal service across the country. Our Registered Nurses use small instruments and gentle suction to remove wax blockages. Micro-suction is a dry technique and can provide immediate relief from blocked ear symptoms in a completely safe and confidential environment.
Why Choose Earworx?
Earworx are Australia’s ear wax cleaning professionals and are a dedicated Ear wax removal service. Earworx specialise solely in Ear wax removal. All our practitioners are Registered Nurses who have been trained in the use of our premium micro suction technique. We are experienced professionals dedicated to improving the ear health of any and all Australians with many branches throughout the country and more locations popping up every day.
If you have questions or concerns about your blocked ears, feel free to contact the friendly Earworx team. We’re more than happy to help answer your questions and to assist you in relieving your ears of uncomfortable, wax-related symptoms.
To book an appointment, please contact the closest clinic to you.