What Are The Potential Risks Of Earwax Build Up?

Ear examination prior to ear cleaning

Ear wax build up is not an uncommon problem, but many people don’t realise just how serious it can be if left untreated. Let’s take a look at why it’s so important to remove ear wax build up on a regular basis to prevent complications that could have a serious impact on your health.

Wax build up can lead to impaction

Ear wax impaction occurs when wax builds up and hardens to the point that it completely or partially blocks the ear canal and cannot naturally fall out on its own. Impacted ear wax often causes hearing loss and it can make it difficult for the ears to be examined when you visit a doctor.

Often, ear wax impaction is an uncomfortable condition. It can cause a throbbing, aching sensation deep in the ear canal and it may even make the earlobe and surrounding tissue feel tender. Dizziness and severe ringing in the ears are also common consequences of ear wax impaction.

Ear wax build up increases the risk of serious infection

Ear wax works to protect the ear from infection because it helps to create an acidic environment in the ear canal which kills off bacteria. However, when ear wax builds up and doesn’t move out of the ear naturally, it can actually harbour foreign bodies and bacteria and increase the risk of infection.

Ear infections can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including: 

  • Severe pain
  • High temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Lethargy
  • Foul-smelling discharge

Although ear infections can clear up on their own within a few days, sometimes they require treatment with antibiotics. In extreme instances, or in people who have had recurring ear infections, they can develop into mastoiditis, which is a very serious infection of the mastoid bone behind the ear.

In the most extreme cases of mastoiditis, where antibiotics prove to be ineffective, surgery might be required to drain the middle ear or remove part of the mastoid bone. Should surgery not be performed quickly enough, there is a risk of full hearing loss in the affected ear, or of further life-threatening complications such as brain abscess, meningitis, and blood clots.

Look out for the early signs of ear wax build up

Ear wax build up often causes minor complaints that are a little irritating but easy enough to ignore or get used to. It is important that you don’t ignore them, and seek removal of ear wax build up before it develops into something more serious. Contact our team to learn more.

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