Ear Wax and Hearing Loss

Ear wax is something that most people have to deal with from time to time and the question of what one with blocked ears should do is one that we come across often in medicine. For most people ear wax is no problem at all but sometimes it can build up and block your ears. If this does happen it may stop you from being able to hear which can be a stressful experience for anyone. The most important thing to note is not to attempt to remove the wax from your ears with cotton buds as this will do more harm than good. The best thing to do is to visit your doctor or nurse to get the wax removed which is usually a pain free and often therapeutic experience.

The ear wax story…

It is well known that we all make and therefore have ear wax in our ears. In normal instances the wax moves from inside the ear canal to the outside of your ear where it falls out or you are able to wash it away. Unfortunately in some instances the wax can build up and block your ear or ears. In some cases a wax build up can cover your eardrum. The eardrum also known as the tympanic membrane is a fragile structure which separates the outer and middle ear and kind of looks like a circular piece of foggy glass. In normal hearing the sound waves come into the ear through the outer ear canal and hit the eardrum which causes bones to vibrate and then these vibrations are turned into signals by your brain that allow us to hear. If your outer ear canal is occluded with wax then the sound waves are unable to get to your eardrum and this process cannot take place. Hearing loss of this nature is usually not serious and can be restored by removing the wax. Ear wax tends to be more of a problem in those who wear hearing aids or ear plugs and who do not allow the natural flow of wax out of the ear canal. It is important to note that having lots of wax in your ears has nothing to do with hygiene, cleaning and trying to remove the wax will not help the situation. In fact using cotton buds can be harmful as you can push the wax further into your ear and even in some instances cause major damage by pushing wax through the eardrum itself.

Symptoms?

Having a wax build up in an ear will often make you feel as though you have lost most of the hearing in that ear and can be really frustrating. Having a build up of wax in both of your ears can make it difficult to even hold a conversation. Other things that may occur include pain in your ear, feeling dizzy and you may experience a ringing in your ear known as tinnitus. You should visit your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms and they can look and see whether there is wax blocking your ear or if in fact there is something else going on.

Do the treatments work?

Ear drops are probably the most common form of treatment when dealing with a build up of ear wax. These work by softening the wax in such a way as to aid the ear canal to break it up and push it out. There is however not much evidence to suggest that wax softeners actually helps to get rid of the wax. You can also try more natural remedies such as olive oil or sodium bicarbonate ear drops.

Ear syringing or aural toilet is another treatment option that is conducted by a doctor or nurse. This involves squirting warm water into the blocked ear through a tube which will act to weaken and move the wax. A small basin will be held under the ear for the water and wax that comes out. It is important to note that this process may take a few minutes before you are able to begin to move the wax. In many cases you may be given ear drops first to soften the wax which will aid in the process of softening the wax. This process should not hurt but is often uncomfortable and can make you feel dizzy. Sometimes this procedure needs to be repeated as it may not work the first time. In rare cases this can cause damage to the ear canal or eardrum and care must be taken when performing the task.

In very waxy ears the doctor may remove the wax with a special metal prong or via a suction device. These are effective but require a good operator and are usually only completed by specialist trained in ear surgery.

In conclusion:

One out of every three people with ear wax plugs will notice that the ears will clear themselves at around the five day mark without any treatment. Ear syringing is usually done if the ear wax is not cleared with ear drops. If it is found out that the ear wax is not the cause of your hearing loss then your doctor will do more investigations to find out what the cause is and help you to treat the problem.


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