Earwax blockage is one of the most common ear problems. It occurs when earwax builds up in the ear canal. It can also occur when the earwax becomes too hard to remove. The ear canal is line with hair follicles and glands that produce earwax, also called cerumen.
Its purpose includes protecting the ear by trapping and hindering foreign particles such as, dust, germs and other small particles from getting inside the ear and causing harm to the ear. It also serves to protect the ear canal’s skin from irritation. The blockage is sometimes called a plug or impaction.
Causes of Earwax Blockage
Earwax is a waxy oil that doesn’t typically cause problems. It naturally moves toward the ear opening, where it will either fall off or be wash away. New wax will then be secreted to replace the lost earwax. However, when this process is not done effectively, it may lead to earwax blockage. The common causes of earwax blockage include:
- Over-production of earwax, which may lead to extra wax hardening in the ear canal and blocking the ear (hereditary)
- Instead of cleaning the ear properly, some earwax may be pushed deeper in the canal
- Wearing hearing aids, earplugs, or earphones consistently may prevent the earwax from falling out of the ear
- Recurring ear infections
Symptoms of Earwax Blockage
It may not always be noticeable when there is an earwax blockage in the ear. Decreased hearing and most symptoms are not very specific symptoms, thus they are often disregarded. Some symptoms of earwax blockage include:
- Noises in the ear, may be a ringing or buzzing sound
- Feeling that the ear is plugged or fullness feeling in the ear
- Ear discomfort
- Itchiness in the ear
- Partial hearing loss, which may progress
- In rare cases, coughing
First Aid Management for Earwax Blockage
In severe cases, only an otolaryngologist (ear doctor) or any other licensed doctor can be able to completely remove the plug, but in most cases, treatments can be done to manage the earwax blockage at home. There are several ways to manage earwax blockage to avoid complications from occurring.
- Warm mineral oil or an equal mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water in room temperature may also soften and loosen the earwax. Do this twice a day for five days. Warm shower should help remove the wearwax.
- Do not attempt to remove the earwax. This may further push the earwax inside the ear.
- Apply over-the-counter wax softening drops that may be put into the affected ear. After dropping several drops in the ear, hold the head to the side to allow the drops to settle. After five minutes, sit up straight and the drops will drain out by themselves.
- Another method to remove earwax blockage includes slightly flush the ear with warm using a bulb-type syringe. Water should be at body temperature to avoid developing other symptoms such as dizziness.
- Do not attempt ear candling.
Prevention of Earwax Blockage
The simplest way to prevent earwax blockage is to avoid putting things inside the ear to avoid pushing the earwax deeper inside the ear canal. Several complications may arise from earwax blockage if not treated aptly. To learn more about management earwax blockage and other ear problems, enroll in First Aid Courses.