Ten Tips for Preventing Earwax Buildup

Reviewed by Dr. Porter on March 24, 2021

Earwax isn’t high on most of our lists of health priorities. After all, we can just swab it away (or so it seems) or wash it away and there won’t be a problem — or will there?
The truth of us, most of us wouldn’t think of scheduling an appointment with an audiologist to deal with earwax buildup, but excessive earwax can cause some annoying and even serious symptoms:

  • Your ears could feel plugged up or stuffy.
  • Sounds might be muffled.
  • You could develop ringing in your ears.
  • Earwax buildup can lead to cough.
  • You could get dizzy.
  • Your ears could hurt.

And when earwax buildup is coupled with infection, you could experience odor coming from your ears, severe ear pain, drainage from your ears, itching, fever, and serious infection.

Ordinarily, earwax does its work of catching dust and bacteria, dries up, and falls out of the ear. But when there is some kind of inflammation of the ear canal, or the ear canal is unusually narrow or curved, or when earwax is jammed into the ear canal by digging around with a Q-tip, it can accumulate in the ear canal and cause problems.

Fortunately, there are 10 things you can do to prevent the buildup of wax in your ears and to minimize the impact of the problem for your family.

Don’t use cotton-tipped swabs to remove wax from your ears. They remove the wax closest to the opening of your ear but push some wax deeper into the ear canal, where it can become impacted.
Even better, don’t stick anything into your ears, certainly not paper clips, bobby pins, or anything sharp. Even cotton balls, however, can cause problems if they are pushed into the ear canal.

Use ear drops your hearing specialist recommends for loosening wax in your ears so it falls out on its own.

ear infection

If putting a cleansing liquid into your ear hurts, stop using it right away and call your hearing specialist for further advice.

Never proceed with any ear cleaning procedure that causes pain in your ear.

Don’t use ear drops or any other cleansing agent in your ears more often than your hearing professional recommends. Cleaning the ear canal too often can trigger a reaction in which the ear canal increases the production of wax, so it won’t dry out.

When you wash your hair, don’t let shampoo accumulate in your ear canals. It can dry out your ear canal causing, paradoxically, a buildup of earwax later.

If you go swimming or diving, make sure to get all the water out of your ears when you get out. Letting water stay in your ears can trigger inflammatory reactions that your ear canal responds to with excess earwax production.

If you wear hearing aids, be aware that you are more likely than most people to have excessive wax buildup in your ears. Be sure to keep all of your appointments with your audiologist to keep excessive earwax from being a problem. And if you take care of small children or elderly family members with cognitive challenges, be aware that removal of excessive earwax is likely to be needed on a regular basis.

Avoid ear candles. They don’t do a good job of removing earwax, and there’s a risk of burning the delicate structures of your middle and inner ear.

Get Help with Your Blocked Ears

Call Harbor Audiology if you experience any of the symptoms of a blocked ear canal listed above, or if you have unexplained hearing loss or drainage from your ear. Make an appointment to see your audiologist right away if you have fever or severe pain in your ears.

The hearing specialists at Harbor Audiology can provide you care you need for the best hearing possible. Our staff can help you with your questions about insurance or VA benefits, and we have office hours most evenings and Saturdays. Harbor Audiology serves Sequim, Silverdale, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Port Angeles, and Federal WayRequest your appointment online today!

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