Cerumen Impaction (Ear Wax)

About Cerumen Impaction (Ear Wax)

Cerumen, the medical term for earwax, is the yellowish waxy substance that the ear produces as a protective cover for the skin of the ear canal. It helps to clean the ear and provide lubrication, as well as to protect the ear from water, bacteria, and insects.

Normally the ear secretes the cerumen it needs and there is no need to clean the ears. Cotton swabs, bobby pins or fingernails usually push the wax deeper and can create a blockage or cerumen impaction.

Ear wax build-up can lead to symptoms of an earache, conductive hearing loss, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, itching or coughing.

Removal of ear wax should be performed only when it is in excess and causing a health problem, and then only by an ear nose and throat provider.

Your provider can quickly remove built-up ear wax using suction, very small instruments and a microscope that magnifies the ear canal. The ENT provider may also prescribe eardrops that will soften the ear wax. Over-the-counter options include mineral oil or glycerin drops, hydrogen peroxide drops or an irrigation ear syringe. However, if a perforated eardrum is possible or if ear tubes have been implanted, absolutely do not use any home remedies.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, ear candles are not a safe option for the removal of ear wax. Hot wax dripped through a small hollow tube or candle into the ear canal can not only create burns, it can rupture the eardrum.