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Earwax blockage - earwax (cerumen)

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Everyone produces some earwax. Overproduction of earwax (cerumen) causing blockage of the external ear. Earwax is part of the body's natural defenses. It protects the ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria.

At times, however, too much earwax may accumulate and become too hard to wash away naturally. This wax can then block the ear canal, causing an earache and decreased hearing in the involved ear. It's not known why earwax accumulates excessively for some people and not for others and often in only one ear. If excess earwax becomes a problem, you or the doctor can take steps to remove it safely.


The wax in the ear is secreted by glands in the skin that lines the ear canal. The wax and tiny hairs in this passage trap dust and other foreign particles that could damage deeper structures, such as the eardrum.

In most people, a small amount of earwax regularly makes its way to the opening of the ear where it's washed away or falls out as new wax is secreted to replace it. If you secrete an excessive amount of wax or if it isn't cleared effectively, it may build up and block the ear canal.

When to seek medical advice 

There's no way to know if you have excessive earwax without having the doctor look into the ears. Having symptoms such as earache or decreased hearing doesn't necessarily mean you have wax buildup. Even if you've had a past problem with earwax, you can't be sure that wax buildup is the cause of the current symptoms. It's possible you have other another medical condition involving the ears that may need attention.

Asking the doctor to remove earwax may seem unnecessary, but the ear and eardrum are delicate and can be damaged easily. Seek medical advice instead of trying to remove hardened wax that resists the initial self-care measures. Also, don't consider removing earwax on the own with any device placed into the ear canal, especially if you've had a past ear surgery, have a hole (perforation) in the eardrum, or are having ear pain or drainage.

Children usually have their ears checked as part of any medical examination. If necessary, a doctor can remove excess earwax from the child's ear during an office visit.


The doctor can remove excess wax using a small, curved instrument called a curette. the doctor can also flush out the wax using a Water Pik or a rubber-bulb syringe filled with warm water.

If earwax buildup is a recurring problem, the doctor may recommend that you use a wax-removal medication, such as carbamide peroxide (Debrox, Murine Ear Drops), every four to eight weeks as a preventive measure. Children with troublesome earwax buildup may need to use the medication more often, perhaps every two weeks.


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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:27 AM