5 Ear Wax Problems And How To Avoid Them

Otoscopy in a child

Ear wax build-up is a relatively common problem, but are you aware of the potential ear wax build-up side effects that could cause you trouble?

Some people are lucky enough never to have to clean their ears, but many of us will experience ear wax problems at one time or another, and if left untreated, this ear wax build-up may result in hearing problems, balance problems, and more. Read on to find out more about the most common ear wax problems and how to avoid them.

Why Does The Body Produce Ear Wax?

Ear wax, or cerumen, to give it its proper name, is produced by the body within the sebaceous glands inside the ear as a lubricant and antibacterial substance. Ear wax protects the inner ear by helping to prevent bacterial infections and by moisturising the skin within the ear canal. It helps to clean and defend the inside of the ear, trapping germs and repelling liquid. This means ear wax is a key part of our body’s immune system, and it’s something we all need – but we don’t want it to build up too much.

Ear wax does contain some dead hair and skin cells, but it’s not entirely comprised of these substances as some might think, so this shouldn’t be the main cause of any ear wax problems that may arise. Any ear wax build-up side effects are more likely to be a cause of excess ear wax blocking the ear and not being removed when it needs to be.

5 Potential Excess Ear Wax Problems

From blocked ears to dizziness and from muffled hearing to a persistent ringing in the ears, there can be multiple ear wax build-up side effects. Learn more about five of the most common ear wax problems below.

1. Impacted Ear Wax

Ear wax problems can arise when wax becomes impacted in the ear canal. The presence of some ear wax in the ear canal is beneficial, but when too much wax builds up, it can become stuck. Usually, ear wax should move through the ear canal by itself as a result of movement in the jaw, mainly via chewing. What’s more, the skin inside your ear grows from the inside out, and flakes when it reaches the outside, taking some ear wax with it. However, this doesn’t always happen as it should.

Ear wax build-up side effects can arise when ear wax is pushed deeper into the ear canal inadvertently, which can cause problems. As wax is produced in the outer part of the ear canal, it can be pushed further into the ear canal, for example when wearing in-ear earphones.

If this build-up of ear wax becomes compacted, it can block most or all of the ear canal. The most common ear wax problems associated with a blockage are hearing loss, as well as aches and pains.

2. Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most common ear wax build-up side effects, which can have a big impact on your day-to-day life and overall wellbeing. Although a build-up of ear wax is not the only cause of hearing loss, it can be one of the most common, and in many cases it can be treated, with ear wax removal helping to return hearing levels to normal.

Microsuction ear wax removal is a safe, comfortable, and quick procedure to remove excess ear wax, helping to alleviate common ear wax problems. Find out more about the benefits of ear microsuction.

3. Tinnitus

Tinnitus, which is a loud, persistent ringing sound heard in the ears, is another of the main ear wax problems that many people experience as a result of excess wax blocking the ears. Tinnitus can be uncomfortable and distracting, potentially affecting your wellbeing if it persists long term.

Tinnitus is one of the most common ear wax build-up side effects because it is caused by pressure from impacted wax disrupting nerve cells in the middle and inner ear, which your brain mistakenly translates as noise, causing that ringing sound.

Using microsuction ear wax removal to remove excess wax may help to stop the ringing, but this isn’t always the case, as the tinnitus may be caused by another medical condition, medication, or even stress.

4. Dizziness

Can ear wax cause balance problems? In some cases, yes. In some cases, ear wax problems can lead to dizziness and vertigo. This is because our ears are a key part of our body’s ability to balance and move, so when excess ear wax presses against the ear drum, it can affect the messages sent from the ear to the brain, in turn affecting our stability.

Balance problems are among the more worrying ear wax build-up side effects for elderly people, who are more vulnerable to serious injuries from falling, highlighting the importance of regular ear wax removal for this age group.

5. Memory Loss

There have even been studies carried out into the effects of excess ear wax on memory – further research into this connection is needed, but some have suggested that there may be a potential link between hearing loss and dementia. This may be due to hearing loss affecting the brain’s memory-making function, as loss of hearing means the brain has to use alternative central auditory networks. As a result, this may lead to a decline in cognitive performance and potentially even an increased risk of depression due to reduced cognitive reserve, increased executive dysfunction, and disrupted normative emotion reactivity.

How To Treat Ear Wax Build-Up And Avoid Ear Wax Problems

Microsuction ear wax removal can be used to treat a build-up of excess ear wax and subsequently associated side effects, as well as helping you to avoid further ear wax problems in future.

Ear microsuction is a more comfortable and effective ear wax removal procedure than ear syringing – microsuction is not dissimilar to using a small vacuum to remove wax from the ear canal. Often, when wax is removed from the ear, those ear wax problems you’ve been experiencing such as dizziness, tinnitus, and muffled hearing will disappear.

Some people will require regular ear wax removal, but there are other steps you can take to avoid further ear wax problems. For example:

  • Avoid using cotton buds or other utensils to try to remove ear wax yourself at home. Read more about the dangers of DIY ear wax removal
  • Try to limit your use of in-ear earphones to prevent wax from becoming compacted in the ear canal
  • Don’t ignore any ear wax problems that do arise; if you’re worried about muffled hearing, tinnitus, balance problems, or anything else, always seek professional advice as soon as possible

If you have any concerns about excessive ear wax build-up, book an appointment at our Ealing clinic today.

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