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What are the Causes of Earwax Buildup & Ways to Get Rid of it?

About Earwax

Earwax is also called as cerumen, which is a waxy oil with debris produced in the ear canal. This ear wax protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, microorganisms and water.

Usually, excess wax washes away when it finds its way to the outer of the ear canal. When the glands in the ear canal make more wax than necessary, the ear wax can harden up and cause blockage to the ear. When you use a cotton bud or anything else to clean the ear wax at home, you could actually push the wax deeper into the ear and cause it to become impacted. Ear Wax buildup can lead to temporary hearing loss, so it is pertinent that the impacted ear wax be taken care of and freed from the ear canal. Normal hearing usually ensues after the ear wax has been cleaned out.

What are the Causes of Earwax Buildup & Ways to Get Rid of it?

What are the Causes of Earwax Buildup?

Natural Production of Excess Ear Wax: Some people are naturally prone to produce a lot of earwax, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will lead to earwax buildup causing blockage. Most commonly, when you try at-home treatment and attempt to remove the earwax yourself is when the problem starts. A Q-tip, bobby pin or keys are the usual instruments which people use to clean the ear wax at home and all these may remove superficial ear wax; however, causes the ear wax to go in deeper into the ear canal and cause blockage.

Earwax Buildup Caused By Headphones: Another cause of earwax buildup can be frequent use of headphones, which can actually prevent earwax from naturally coming out of the ear canal and in turn cause ear wax to build up and ear blockage.

Earwax Buildup Caused By Use of Ear Plugs & Hearing Aids: Same as is the case of head phones; ear plugs and hearing aids prevent the ear wax to come out naturally and cause the ear wax to build up.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Earwax Buildup?

  • The impacted earwax appears yellow or dark brown in color.
  • There is sudden/partial hearing loss.
  • Earache or pain in the ear is felt.
  • Patient experiences tinnitus.
  • Patient experiences a feeling of fullness in the ear.

Severe Symptoms of Earwax Buildup Include: Severe and unrelenting earache, ear drainage, fever, cough, hearing loss, odor from the ear and dizziness.

What Are The Ways To Get Rid Of Excess Earwax?

At-home treatment to get rid of earwax buildup need not always be successful. In such cases it is better to seek medical consult. Unsuccessful attempts to get rid of earwax at home could result in damage to the ear canal or eardrum, infection or is loss.

Softening the Earwax To Get Rid Of Earwax Build Up

There are many over-the-counter ear drops available to help get rid of earwax buildup. Other than eardrops, the following can be used to soften the ear wax in order to get rid of it: mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, baby oil and glycerin. Put a few drops of any of the above into the affected ear with earwax buildup and keep the affected ear facing upwards. Keep the head in the same position for 5 minutes to allow the drops to soften the ear wax buildup. Then turn the head the other way with the affected ear with earwax buildup towards the ground. With the help of the gravity, the softened ear wax will drain out of the ear relieving the ear wax build up. This is one way of getting rid of ear wax buildup at home.

Ear Irrigation To Get Rid Of Earwax Build Up

Ear irrigation is another way to get rid of earwax buildup. However, if you have had a medical procedure done on your ear or have an injured eardrum, never attempt to irrigate the ear as it could lead to complications such as hearing loss or infection. The eardrum is a sensitive membrane, so you shouldn’t use products used for irrigation of mouth in the ears, as this may produce too much force for your eardrum to tolerate. An over the counter ear irrigation pack with instructions on how to carry out the simple procedure can be used easily at home. It usually comprises of simple steps such as making sure that your head is in an upright position. Pull the outside of the affected ear with ear wax buildup gently upward. Use a syringe to send a stream of body temperature water into the ear canal. Avoid using water that is too warm or too cold to prevent dizziness. Then tip your head to the side to allow the water to drain out. Routine ear irrigations can help prevent earwax buildup if you often deal with this issue.

When To Seek Help From The Doctor for Ear Wax Build Up?

If with the following methods you are not able to get rid of ear wax and the problem is persisting, then it is time to consult your doctor. It is also recommended to have a yearly follow ups for earwax removal to prevent any future or recurrent earwax buildup.

The doctor can rule out other problems also once the issue of ear wax buildup is brought to his notice. The doctor may use irrigation, suction and a curette (a small, curved instrument) to remove the ear wax buildup. The doctor will provide you with aftercare instructions, which should be followed carefully to prevent any complications.

Hearing often returns to normal after the procedure. Some people might be prone to excess earwax production and may need to undergo the procedure again to remove earwax if required.


  1. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. “Earwax and Care.” (URL: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/earwax-and-care/)
  2. Mayo Clinic. “Earwax Blockage.” (URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/earwax-blockage/symptoms-causes/syc-20353007)
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. “What to do about earwax buildup.” (URL: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what_to_do_about_earwax_buildup)
  4. Cleveland Clinic. “Earwax: What You Should Know About It.” (URL: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/earwax-what-you-should-know-about-it/)
  5. WebMD. “Earwax (Cerumen).” (URL: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/understanding-earwax-basics)

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 8, 2023

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