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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Ear Nose and Throat Disorders Ear Wax

Ear Wax

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Earwax, medically referred to as cerumen, is produced by glands in the outer ear canal. Its purpose is to trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from reaching, and potentially damaging the eardrum. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear, along with any trapped dust or debris.


Causes

Blockage, or impaction, occurs when the wax gets pushed deep within the ear canal. Earwax blockage affects about 6% of people and is the most common ear problem doctors see.


Signs & symptoms

  • Decreased hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Ear pain
  • Plugged or fullness sensation of the ear
  • Ringing in the ear

 

Diagnosis


A doctor can diagnose earwax blockage (or eardrum perforation) by listening to the patient's symptoms and then looking into the ear with an otoscope(ear-scope).


Treatment


The doctor may remove the earwax with a small plastic spoon called a curette, or by irrigating the ear with warmed water, saline, docusate(Colace), sodium bicarbonate, or other prescription-strength eardrops.


Self care


Earwax blockage can be prevented by avoiding the use of cotton-tipped swabs or Q-tips and other objects that push the wax deeper into the ear canal.

Over-the-counter wax softening drops, for example, carbamide peroxide (Debrox, Auro, Murine) or warmed mineral oil may be put into the affected ear and then allowed to drain out after about five minutes.