The simple answer is yes – blockage of the ear canal from earwax can lead to a host of symptoms with include tinnitus (1)
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of sounds like ringing, buzzing, humming or clicking without an external source – phantom noises. To some people it sounds like the dishwasher going in another room, to others it is the deafening roar of cicadas in summer. It can be present sometimes, or all the time. It can be in one ear, or both. It can be subtle or overwhelming.
Can ear wax cause tinnitus?
Blockage of the ear canal from ear wax can certainly contribute to tinnitus (1). In fact, even a small amount of wax on the ear drum can result in tinnitus (2). But with only 1 in 20 adults experiencing excessive or impacted wax in their ears (1), and as many as 1 in 7 people experiencing some form of tinnitus, removal of ear wax may not be your solution. However eliminating ear wax blockage as a cause is certainly a first step.
Other common causes with may trigger tinnitus, include middle ear infections, dental or jaw problems, some medications, exposure to loud noises, inner ear damage, hearing loss and even emotional or stressful events (3)
How do I fix impacted ear wax?
If you have an ear full of wax that you suspect may be contributing to or worsening your tinnitus, what can you do to fix this? Firstly, be aware that many home-remedies are not recommended and can in fact worsen the problem. At Earworx clinics, registered nurses all too often see people who have to sheepishly admit that when they had a sensation of blockage, they resorted to using a cotton bud and then discovered that rather than getting the wax out, it actually pushed it further in and made the problem worse. Don’t reach for a cotton bud, as tempting as it is. The safest thing to do is lie on your side with the affected ear up, pop a few drops of olive oil, or baby oil in the affected ear, keep the oil in with a big cotton ball, and leave this to soak into the wax overnight. If this doesn’t clear the wax after a few attempts, make an appointment at Earworx so our nurses can remove your earwax gently and safely.
How do Earworx nurses remove the wax?
At Earworx, our highly trained registered nurses use microsuction, which is essentially a tiny vacuum to remove the wax using gentle suction. Micro-suction is a safe and effective earwax removal technique (1), and it is the method of removal used by Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists.
With micro-suction you can be confident that your wax removal is thorough, as direct vision is maintained throughout the procedure via the use of loupes; a bright light with magnification that is worn like a pair of glasses on the nurses’ heads.
Because it’s a completely dry technique, micro-suction is also suitable for people with perforated eardrums or people who have undergone ear surgery.
How do I stop my ears becoming impacted again?
When you come into an Earworx clinic, our friendly registered nurses will discuss the specific reason your wax built up and work with you to resolve these issues moving forward. You can ask any questions (there are no silly questions ), feel confident that your wax build up will be better managed moving forward, and that your registered nurse understands when medical referral may be necessary.
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1. Schwartz et al 2017, Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction), Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Vol 156 (IS) SI-S29
2. Tunkel et al 2014, Clinical Practice Guideline: Tinnitus, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Vol 151 (2S) SI-S40
3. Factsheet – Tinnitus – Understanding and dealing with ‘ringing’ in the ears. Hearing Australia