Ear wax is a normal and healthy thing for our ears. Most people have a normal amount of ear wax, and the ear wax drains out of the ears by itself. Some people have too much ear wax and/or their ear wax does not drain properly, which means they can often end up with ear wax buildup deep down in the ear canal. This can be quite uncomfortable if not very painful.
What is Ear Wax?
Ear wax, also called cerumen, is made by the body to protect the ears. The ear wax has both lubricating and antibacterial properties. Ear wax is produced in the outer part of the ear canal, not deep inside the ear.
Most of the time, the old ear wax is moved through the ear canal by motions from chewing and other jaw movements. When the wax reaches the outside of the ear it flakes off.
What does it mean when ear wax becomes impacted?
We say that ear wax is impacted when it has built up in the ear canal to such a point that there may be signs that something is not quite right. It is important to note that, for most people, ears might never need cleaning—as stated above they are designed to clean themselves.
Ear wax buildup and blockage often happens when people use items like cotton swabs or bobby pins to try to clean their ears. This only pushes the ear wax farther into the ears and can also cause injury to the ear.
What are the symptoms of ear wax impaction?
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Difficulty hearing, which may continue to worsen
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- A feeling of itchiness in the ear
- Discharge from the ear
- Odour coming from the ear
What are possible complications of ear wax impaction?
A build-up of ear wax might also make it difficult to see into the ear, which may result in potential problems going undiagnosed.
If left untreated, excessive ear wax may cause symptoms of ear wax impaction to become worse.
Who experiences Ear Wax Buildup?
Ear wax buildup can happen to anyone. However, it is more likely to occur in:
- People who use hearing aids or ear plugs
- People who put cotton swabs or other items into their ears
- Older people
- People with developmental disabilities
- People with ear canals shaped in such a way as to interfere with natural wax removal
- How is ear wax impaction diagnosed?
How is ear wax impaction treated?
If the ear wax problem is too difficult to deal with at home, it becomes necessary to visit an Audiologist or a Doctor to have the ear wax professionally removed.
A Word of Caution about Cotton Swabs
Cotton swabs have been on the market since the 1920’s, and were originally used to help keep the ear canals clean. However, this practice is strongly discouraged by Audiologists and even on the cotton swabs packaging.
When you place a cotton swab in your ear, you are pushing the wax further into the ear. If you must use a cotton swab on your ear, only clean the outer portion of the ear. Do not place the swab in the ear canal. Using cotton swabs in your ear canal can result in earwax impaction or a ruptured eardrum.
How Audiologists Remove Ear Wax
Audiologists such as those working at Tami Mehl Audiology have the training and the skill to use special medical tools to remove wax from your ear. If you have an impaction, then they can scoop it right out with these special tools. This is much safer and more effective than trying to do it yourself with things like hair pins or cotton swabs which you should never do. Even if your earwax is not fully impacted, Audiologists can remove it if too much has built up inside your ear canal.
Audiologists will assess the seriousness of the ear wax buildup before deciding what actions to take. They generally have two main ways of removing ear wax: 1) they may prefer to send patients home with an ear wax removal kit, or 2) they will do a procedure at their practice if needed.
- At Home Procedures:
- Over the Counter Ear Wax Removal Kits: If the Audiologists feel that the buildup can be removed at home, they will either instruct you to buy a kit or send you home with one. Ear wax removal kits generally include a small bulb syringe and an ear wax solution. The solution works to soften up the ear wax, and the bulb syringe is used to gently flush out the ear wax with water. Follow the directions on your particular kit to remove earwax by yourself at home.
- Over-the-counter remedies: There are a number of over the counter remedies for softening earwax. For example, baby oil, mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide and saline can all help to soften earwax. Depending on what your situation is, an Audiologist can look inside your ear and determine which solution they think will help you the most. Then they can recommend that product to you.
- Procedures at Their Practice
- A procedure at their practice may first involve the use of a curette. A curette is a small device with a scoop at the end that is used to gently scoop the ear wax out of the ear canal. Professional micro-suction or irrigation procedures may be necessary. While these are safe when professional performed in the Audiologist’s practice, suction or irrigation should not be tried at home.
- Syringe – an Audiologist can also use a syringe full of water to help flush out your ear. This is the preferred method of earwax removal for some Audiologists. With this method, the Audiologist will fill a syringe with water and will gently push the warm water into your ear. This can help to loosen the wax and to remove it from your ear canal. This can help to give you relief if you have an earwax impaction.
- Other ways Audiologists can help
In addition to doing the aforementioned things, Audiologists can also help in other ways when it comes to ear cleaning. For example, they can tell you what not to do, such as using ear candles. Also, they can give you lifestyle recommendations to help keep your ears clean, and prevent them from becoming clogged with wax. All of these things can be very helpful when it comes to ear cleaning.
Book an Appointment at Tami Mehl Audiology
If you’re concerned you may be experiencing pain or hearing loss due to an earwax impaction, schedule an appointment with Tami Mehl Audiology to have your ear health evaluated. In addition to cleaning impacted earwax or hardened earwax, they are able to provide tips and tricks to avoid future earwax blockages; they will also show you regular cleaning routines to keep your ears in optimal shape!
Whether you have your ear wax removed at Tami’s practices or they send you home with an ear wax removal kit, it’s a relief to know that professionals like those at Tami Mehl Audiology know what they are doing and can help you to get relief from ear wax buildup.
Tami has more than 25 years of clinical experience, combined with an honour’s degree in Speech Therapy and Audiology from the University of the Witwatersrand, a Master’s degree in Communication Pathology and Audiology from the University of Pretoria and a Doctorate in Audiology from the University of Florida in the USA.
Tami Mehl Audiology offers you the best in patient-centered care plus the convenience of two practices; one in Illovo and the other in Bedfordview. Both practices offer friendly staff members, a warm and collaborative atmosphere and, most importantly, a thorough service from Professional Audiologists and support team members.
The Audiologists at both practices are:
- Fully qualified with current clinical certificates;
- Registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa;
- Committed to regular Continuing Education programmes;
- Up to date with rapidly changing technology;
- Known for uncompromising clinical and ethical standards.
To book an appointment you can contact either the BEDFORDVIEW PRACTICE on 011 622 6314 – which is situated at Suite 10 Bedford Gardens Medical Suites, 3 Bradford Road, Bedford Gardens, Germiston or the ILLOVO PRACTICE on 011 268 0490 – which is situated at Block 1, Oxford Manor, 196 Oxford Rd, Illovo.
Tami Mehl Audiology is about Optimal Hearing and Optimal Balance
I was seen by Tami Mehl at my ripe old age of 85. It is an absolute pleasure to have dealt with someone who is so respectful and caring of us old folks. With her patience and understanding, she walked me through the hearing tests and sorted out the best hearing aids for my lifestyle. I would certainly recommend Tami to all of my friends. I cannot express my gratitude in how the hearing aids have enhanced my lifestyle.