Earwax Blockage

General Illness Information

Medical Term:
EARWAX BLOCKAGE

Common Name: Cerumen Impaction

Description: Overproduction of earwax (cerumen), causing blockage of the external ear canal. Wax is produced, by glands in the ear  to protect the ear canal ( passage leading from the eardrum to the outside). The amount of wax produced varies from person to person. Some people produce enough earwax  to block the ear canal and need treatment.

Causes: Overproduction of wax by glands in the external ear canal.

Prevention: Avoid area where the air is dusty or filled with debris. This stimulates overproduction of earwax. Consider wearing earplugs if you must be in this type of environment. Also, monthly use of 1-2 drops of mineral oil in the ear may soften the wax and prevent recurrent blockage.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Decreased hearing.
  • Plugged feeling in the ear.
  • Itching.
  • Ringing in the ear.
  • Ear pain.

Risk Factors

  • Exposure to dust or debris.
  • Family history of overproduction of earwax.
  • Water in the ear can cause the wax to swell.
  • Use of cotton swabs in an attempt to clean the ear canal.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis is obvious on examination of the ear canal. The patient commonly gives history of  reduced hearing or “plugged” sensation in the ear , and less commonly of ear pain.

General Measures:

  • To remove earwax at home:
  • Buy non-prescription wax-softening ear drops, or use mineral oil, warmed.
  • Lie down with the affected ear toward the ceiling.
  • Pull the top of the ear gently up and back toward the back of the head.
  • Instill the ear drops or 2 drops of mineral oil
  • Leave the drops in the ear for 4 to 5 minutes. Continue to lie down, if possible. Plug the ear with cotton
  • Sit up, leaning a little toward the affected side. Then splash warm water in the ear whilst having a shower. The above steps with the oil treatment may be repeated daily for a few days.
  • Don’t try to remove wax with a stick or cotton swab. You may damage the eardrum or cause infection in the ear canal. Caution: if you have a perforated eardrum, don’t try to remove the wax, call your doctors office.
  • If it is still blocked, obtain prompt medical attention. A doctor may remove the wax by gently flushing out the ear canal with warm water. However, if a patient has discharge from the ear, a perforated eardrum, tubes in the ear or recurrent ear infections, flushing must not be done. In these situations, the doctor may use a curette ( a blunt instrument) to manually remove the wax.

Medications:

For minor pain, you may use non-prescription drugs such as acetaminophen.

Activity:

No restrictions.

Diet:

No special diet.

Possible Complications :

  • Ear infection.
  • Eardrum damage.

Prognosis

Earwax can be removed, but stubborn cases require patience.

Other

‘Nothing Specified’