earwax build-up

Have you thought much about earwax?

Earwax is a normal part of your ears function. Here you can learn more about earwax, why we get a build-up of earwax and what you can do about it.

Microsuction earwax removal should only be performed by trained professionals. At PinnaClear, Hafiza has a number of years of clinical practice and is fully insured to see adults and children. 

Why do we produce earwax?

Wax buildup in the ears is a common occurrence and typically happens when the ears produce too much earwax (cerumen) or when the natural process of earwax migration is disrupted. Earwax is a substance produced by the glands in the ear canal, and its primary function is to protect the ear by trapping dust, debris, and bacteria.

Several factors can contribute to the buildup of earwax:

  1. Overproduction: Some people naturally produce more earwax than others. If the glands in the ear canal produce an excess amount of wax, it can lead to buildup.

  2. Blockage: Objects, such as cotton swabs or hearing aids, can push wax deeper into the ear canal, causing a blockage. In an attempt to remove earwax, people may inadvertently push it further down the ear canal, contributing to the buildup.

  3. Narrow or Curved Ear Canals: Individuals with narrower or more curved ear canals may be prone to earwax buildup because the natural migration of wax out of the ear is hindered.

  4. Age: The consistency of earwax can change with age. Older adults may experience drier earwax, making it more likely to become impacted and lead to buildup.

  5. Use of Earplugs or Hearing Aids: Regular use of earplugs or hearing aids can interfere with the natural movement of wax out of the ear, contributing to the accumulation of earwax.

While some earwax is normal and serves a protective function, excessive or impacted earwax can cause symptoms such as hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, and ear pain. If you experience these symptoms or suspect earwax build-up, it’s important to seek medical advice. A senior audiologist at PinnaClear can assess the situation and recommend appropriate measures, which may include earwax removal using suction, or other methods. It’s essential to avoid inserting objects like cotton buds into the ear canal, as this can push wax further down, impacting earwax and potentially causing a perforation and permanent hearing loss.

Are there genetic differences to earwax?

Yes, there are genetic differences in the composition and consistency of earwax. The type of earwax a person has is determined by their genetics. There are two main types of earwax:

  1. Wet or Yellow Earwax (Type A): This type is dominant in populations of African and European descent. It is typically moist and sticky.

  2. Dry or Grey Earwax (Type B): This type is more common in East Asian and Native American populations. It tends to be drier and less sticky than wet earwax.

The gene responsible for these differences in earwax type is called ABCC11. The variations in this gene determine whether a person will have wet or dry earwax. Additionally, the same gene is associated with other traits, such as body odour.

It’s important to note that the type of earwax a person has doesn’t necessarily have any significant health implications. However, it can affect how easily earwax moves through the ear canal and may influence the likelihood of earwax-related issues, such as wax build-up. Individuals with dry earwax may be more prone to earwax impaction, as the drier consistency may make it harder for the wax to migrate out of the ear naturally.

Regardless of earwax type, proper ear hygiene is important to avoid complications. It’s generally recommended not to insert objects like cotton buds into the ear canal, as this can push wax further down and potentially lead to earwax build-up or impaction. If you have any concerns about earwax or related symptoms, get in touch with us for audiology-led guidance. 

How do you know if you have earwax build-up?

Earwax buildup, also known as cerumen impaction, can cause various symptoms. If you experience any of the following signs, you may have earwax buildup:

  1. Earache: Pain or discomfort in one or both ears.
  2. Hearing Loss: Gradual or sudden decrease in hearing ability.
  3. Tinnitus: Ringing, buzzing, or other noises in the ears.
  4. Dizziness: Feeling off-balance or dizzy.
  5. Ear Fullness: Sensation that your ear is clogged or full.
  6. Itching: Itchiness in the ear canal.
  7. Ear Drainage: Fluid or discharge from the ear.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other ear-related issues, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

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Earwax Removal Faqs

The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Earwax Removal

Microsuction earwax removal is the removal of stubborn earwax using a suction device. The procedure is performed by trained professionals and involves wearing some magnifiers to make it easier to view the wax and eardrum. 

Unlike syringing, softening earwax the same way isn’t necessary. However, it can mean the procedure is more comfortable, particularly if the wax is stuck against the ear canal. 

Ears will naturally withdraw any earwax. If you do not have any pre-existing medical ear conditions you can use a little bit of olive oil to help soften any earwax and clean your ears. If you have earwax that is causing your hearing aid to whistle or cauging you discomfort then it is best to get your ears cleaned professionally.

The current charges at PinnaClear are £50 to £70, depending on the location and whether it is one or both ears that need cleaning. Home visits vary depending on the distance needing to be travelled. 

As with any medical procedure, there are always risks involved. These risks  are minimised  by providing an accurate medical history and booking in with an experienced, fully trained professional. 

The main difference is the level of training and experience. Quite often, the staff at Specsavers are minimally trained as hearcare assistants or hearing aid dispensers and will usually work off a checklist. At PinnaClear, all services are offered by a senior audiologist with several years of NHS and private audiology work. 

Olive oil ear drops can help to soften any ear wax so that it can naturally work its way out. If there is too much earwax or the wax is hard and impacted against the ear drum, the olive oil will soften the wax and help with professional microsuction ear wax removal.

The skin inside our ears is very sensitive and cotton buds peel away at the protective layer in our ears. If there is wax it can become impacted as you push wax deeper against the ear drum. This can reduce your hearing and cause pressure inside your ears. 

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