Can Ear Wax Cause Vertigo & Dizziness?

A build-up of ear wax, otherwise known as impacted ear wax, can be more than just annoying, it can also become dangerous. You may not be aware, but if you suffer from vertigo this may be the cause. Unfortunately, impacted ear wax can be common with two groups of people for whom vertigo is particularly harmful: elderly people and surfers.

Elderly man suffering from Vertigo

Why Does Impacted Ear Wax Cause Vertigo?

Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness that gives people a false sensation of movement. Understandably, this feeling can be uncomfortable, and even potentially dangerous for people who experience it. It can also lead to people feeling nauseous and vomiting, much like carsickness. There are many different causes of dizziness and vertigo, so medical assessment is always recommended. For vertigo caused by wax impaction however, Earworx is here to help.

Impacted earwax can cause a dizzy sensation because our ears are integral to our ability to maintain our balance. If the impacted wax is pushed up against the eardrum it can affect the signals sent from the ear to the brain which in turn can affect our balance.

Elderly people often experience ear wax build-up due to hearing aids use or not having their ears regularly cleaned. The vertigo they experience due to this wax impaction can make them susceptible to falling or having an accident.

Surfers, swimmers, and people who generally spend a lot of time in the water are also known to suffer from impacted ear wax regularly. This is because if an ear canal is already partially blocked by impacted earwax, when it comes into contact with water it will absorb the water swell, and may completely block the ear. Balance is integral to surfing so having impacted ear wax and suffering from vertigo as a result can be problematic.

Impacted Ear Wax Symptoms

Other than vertigo, there are several other symptoms which indicate you might have impacted wax, including:

  • A feeling of blockage
  • Itchiness
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in your ear
  • You ear feeling like it is full
  • Odour
  • Discharge
  • Hearing loss or everything sounding muffled

Waking with a blocked ear that clears over the course of the morning but re-blocks again overnight is another sign of wax build up. As is an ear that does not drain after swimming or showering.

Impacted Ear Wax Removal

If you experience vertigo due to wax build-up, or just suffer from impacted ear wax in general, don’t reach for a cotton bud! Sticking anything in your ears, including cotton buds, is dangerous and could lead to you damaging your ear canal or worsening your symptoms.

Other alternative ear wax removal techniques like ‘ear candling’ can also be dangerous and ineffective and are therefore not recommended1.

Micro-Suction and Curettage

An effective and safe method for removal of excess earwax; the method endorsed by Ear Nose and Throat surgeons, is micro-suction and curettage. At Earworx, this procedure is performed by qualified and highly trained nurses who help to make you feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the process.

The process involves small instruments such as curettes and micro-forceps, as well as a gentle suction device (like a tiny vacuum cleaner in the ear!) being used to carefully extract the wax. The nurse performing the procedure uses binocular magnifying glasses fitted with a bright light, to maintain direct vision into your ear canal throughout the entire procedure, enhancing safety.

It is a fast and painless process. One of the main advantages is that unless the wax is too deep or cannot be visualised for safe removal, no impacted wax is left behind.

Unlike water syringing, the procedure performed at Earworx is a dry technique. Using water to remove wax can be messy and uncomfortable, and is also not recommended for those with complex ear histories, perforated ear drums and diabetics (diabetics are more prone to ear infection). Where water cannot be used, or for those that prefer a dry technique, microsuction and curettage is recommended.

So, next time you find yourself suffering from vertigo due to ear wax build up, book an appointment at Earworx and you’ll be feeling better in no time.

  1. Schwartz et al 2017, Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction), Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Vol 156 (IS) SI-S29