Cerumen, also known as ear wax, is produced by the glands in the ears to keep out dust and debris from getting too far down in the ear canal.
Cerumen typically clears itself from the ears, but accumulates and causes a blockage in some people.
Symptoms of a blockage include:
- Ear ache
- Tinnitus (noise in the ear)
- Hearing impairment
- Ear pressure
If a blockage occurs, it will need to be removed in some way. This can be done at home or at your doctor's office, depending on the size and severity of the blockage.
How Not to Remove Ear Wax Buildup
People commonly use cotton swabs to try and remove built up ear wax or dislodge a blockage. However, this can sometimes cause more problems as cotton swabs can push the blockage further down into the ear canal, risking even more damage to the ear.
Cotton swabs themselves can also be accidentally inserted too far into the ear canal and can potentially damage your ear, including the possibility that you could rupture your ear drum.
Physicians generally agree that cotton swabs are a bad idea for removing ear wax and should only be used on the outer portions of your ear. You should never insert cotton swabs or any small object into your ear canal.
At Home Earwax Removal
Most ear wax buildup issues or blockages are not bad enough to warrant removal by your doctor in his office. Instead, doctors often send patients home with an at-home ear wax removal kit. Ear wax removal kits can also be purchased over the counter in most drug stores.
These kits generally consist of a liquid that softens ear wax and a small rubber bulb syringe. You will be given directions on how much and how often to apply the liquid to your ear canals, allowing it to sit for awhile in your ears to soften up the ear wax. Bubbling and fizzing sensations in your ears is normal with use.
You will then use the bulb syringe to gently flush your ears with warm water to remove the ear wax. It may take several days to completely clear ear wax blockages from your ear.
Removal at Your Doctor's Office
If your blockage is more significant, it may need to be removed in your doctor's office. Doctor's typically use one of two methods to remove ear wax: Irrigation or curettage.
Irrigation is the most common method your doctor will use to remove blockages. Unlike at-home ear wax removal kids, your doctor may use stronger ear wax removal medications in conjunction with irrigation. Carbamide peroxide is typically the main ingredient in these medications.
The less common method is curettage, which involves the use of a curette. A curette is a long, curved tool that is used along with suction to gently scrape cerumen (ear wax) from the ear canal, removing the blockage.
If you are experience pain or discomfort as a result of ear wax, it's important that you see your doctor as son as possible to address the issue. Removing ear wax doesn't have to be painful, and should bring you relief.