Ear wax is a naturally occurring substance, produced by sebaceous glands inside the ear. It cleans and defends the inside of the ear by trapping germs and repelling liquid. It is a key part of our body’s immune system and something we all need.
Side effects of ear wax build-up to be aware of
Without ear wax, the skin inside your ear would become hard, damaged, infected or sore. However, when ear wax builds up in an excessive amount, our quality of life can be seriously impacted. Below we have outlined some common side effects of ear wax build-up that you need to be aware of.
One of the most common side effects of ear wax build-up is a loss in the ability to hear. Hearing is a very important part of our senses and to lose it can really negatively impact someone’s life. While ear wax build-up is not the only cause of hearing loss, according to the NHS, it is one of the most common, especially in elderly people.
Usually, hearing loss can be treated through microsuction ear wax removal, which takes out the excess ear wax in a safe, comfortable and quick manner.
Ear wax buildup can also cause tinnitus. This is a loud ringing sound heard within the ears, which can be very uncomfortable and distracting. It is the pressure from the impacted wax that disrupts nerve cells in your middle and the inside ear which your brain translates as noise, resulting in tinnitus.
By removing excess ear wax, the ringing sound may stop. However, it is possible that this will not stop the ringing, and the tinnitus may be caused by other medical conditions, medications or even stress.
Surprisingly, ear wax buildup can also cause dizziness and vertigo. Our ears are a key part of the body’s ability to balance and move, therefore when excess ear wax presses up against the drum it can affect the messages sent from the ear to the brain which in turn can affect our stability. This can be particularly dangerous for the elderly who are more vulnerable to serious injuries from falling.
Dementia and memory loss
Some studies have even suggested a potential link between ear wax build-up and dementia. According to the NHS, excess ear wax impacts our ability to hear which in turn affects the brain’s memory-making function as the brain is not using certain central auditory networks and instead uses alternative ones. This leads to a decrease in cognitive performance and increased depression risk by reducing cognitive reserve, increasing executive dysfunction, and disrupting normative emotion reactivity and regulation.
For information on how to avoid ear wax build-up, we suggest reading our article on tips for preventing ear wax build-up.