​Earwax Blockage

Ear wax is a waxy substance produced by special glands in the ear canal. The purpose of earwax is to trap dust and debris from the surrounding air so that it does not enter the inside of the ear canal, thus protecting your ear from damage and infections. It also lines up the ear canal, forming a waxy film over it which acts as a temporary water repellent. Everyone produces earwax, but the amount of earwax produced varies from person to person.

Normally earwax dries up and falls out of the ear on its own, along with the trapped dust and debris. However, for those with smaller ears or oddly shaped ear canals, the earwax may not fall out by itself, leading to earwax blockages. When earwax does not fall out on its own, it can build up inside the ear, leading to earwax blockages, also known as earwax impactions. Excessive earwax production can also occur due to some other conditions, such as in infection or trauma to the ear.
Besides failure to fall out itself, earwax blockages can also happen if the wax is pushed deep inside the ear canal, leading to further problems. Ironically, the most common cause of earwax blockage occurs by attempts to clean it. When you insert an object inside your ear to clean the earwax, you may be able to clear the wax visible from outside the ear, but you may also push the wax inside deeper into the ear canal. For the same reason, people who use hearing aids, ear plugs or earphones frequently are also more prone to earwax blockages because they may inadvertently push earwax further inside the ear canal.

If left unchecked, earwax blockage can become quite painful. Symptoms you may generally experience because of an earwax build-up include:

  • Loss of hearing ability.

  • Feeling of dizziness.

  • Drainage from the ear.

  • A sensation of plugging in the ear.

  • Ringing or buzzing the ear.

  • Itching in the ear.

  • Earache.

These are common symptoms of earwax blockage, but some could also indicate the presence of another medical condition. You must not try to remove earwax blockage yourself, and it is essential to see your doctor at the Eye and ENT Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital to get your symptoms evaluated.​​

The symptoms of earwax blockage described above can cause much discomfort. Signs such as decreased hearing and earaches must not be ignored and require immediate medical attention. Some people often make the mistake of trying to remove the earwax on their own. This is incorrect and the ear has to be examined by a qualified ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) specialist who will examine the ear to explore the signs and symptoms of an earwax blockage.

If earwax blockage becomes very serious, you may experience a severe spinning sensation, loss of balance, high fever or vomiting with the usual symptoms. If these signs are being experienced, you should seek immediate medical advice from an ENT doctor at the Eye and ENT Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital.​​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​​

As described above, earwax is a self-cleaning substance which falls out on its own and is also important for protecting the ear. Because of this, we will always have some earwax in our ears, and we cannot get rid of it completely. Therefore, cleaning up earwax at home must be avoided. In case you experience the symptoms described above, you must consult a doctor to make a conclusive diagnosis about the presence of earwax blockage.

To be able to diagnose an earwax blockage, your doctor will first listen to your history and make a record of all symptoms that you have been facing. After this, the doctor will carry out a physical examination, whereby the inside of the ear will be looked into with the help of a probe for ears called an otoscope.

Physical examination and medical history usually help the doctor diagnose if the symptoms of the loss of hearing or earaches are occurring due to earwax blockage. Based on the diagnosis, your doctor will make a treatment plan for you to provide you relief from the symptoms.​​

There are three ways which your doctor can use to clear up an ear canal blocked with earwax.

The first option is to irrigate your ear with warm water to wash out the earwax. Other eardrops may also be added with the warm water for this treatment. There are specially designed irrigation instruments to carry out this treatment method. This method is generally avoided in patients with a history of ear surgery.

The second option is to manually remove the earwax with the help of special instruments, such as the otoscope. This method works effectively if the earwax hasn’t hardened and it’s easy to take it out.

The third option is to prescribe ear drops which will soften the earwax, allowing it to come out on its own. Sometimes this method may be used with irrigation or manual removal of earwax.

Your doctor will opt for the treatment option best suited to you according to your symptoms, medical history and physical examination. Discuss your treatment options in detail with your doctor at the Eye and ENT Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. Our internationally accredited doctors will give you exert medical advice and answer all your queries and concerns regarding your treatment plan for providing you relief from the symptoms of earwax blockage.​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.