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Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

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Would the right ear drum being partially covered with wax lead to complete hearing loss if one had hearing loss already?

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Dr. Michelle Gibson James

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2001

Answered : 16127 Questions

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Posted on Wed, 19 Dec 2018 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Question: Hello

I haven't been able hear in my right ear for around 10/11 days. This has happened once before which was down to a bit of ear wax on my ear drum. The nurse used the irrigation water solution and my ear was thankfully okay again. So I have been using olive oil drops to help, and after 5/6 days of using the drops my hearing did come back for a day or two, but then went again. This was 5 days ago. This morning I went to see my GP She looked in my ear and said that she can still see a part of my ear drum and that I have a bit of wax covering half of my ear drum and to continue using olive oil as I have been doing for the past 10 days, as I have an appointment to see an ENT in a week's time. The appointment with the ENT was made 2 months ago because of a suspected perforation in my other ear, to which my GP couldn't check the status of a month later due to ear wax.
My GP is saying that any concerns I have with my right ear, to address at my ENT appointment in a weeks time. Which sounds okay, but I am still feeling a bit concerned about my right ear ? Shouldn't I still be able to hear out of my right ear with my ear drum just half covered in wax ? And if I have an infection would my GP have been able to see this ? I already have a hearing loss in this ear (from years ago!) Could this be why a bit of wax makes it worse in my particular case ? A part of me is feeling okay as I am remembering when this happened a few years ago with just a bit of wax and it was okay again after irrigation. But another part of me feels anxious as it seems like a long time.
Also I have been using steam near (not too near) to help with the wax. Is that okay ?
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Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Understandable to be concerned

Detailed Answer:

Hi,

It is understandable to be concerned regarding hearing loss.

Your doctor would have been able to determine if there was an infection present, it would present with redness of the ear canal and there can also be changes of the tympanic membrane (it has a dull appearance). In some persons, there is also discharge in the ear.

If there is already some hearing loss of the ear, the wax present can worsen it.

Hearing loss can be conductive or sensorineural.
- Conductive means that the sound cannot get through, there is something preventing the sound from reaching where it needs to be. Wax causes this type of hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss - here, there is nerve involvement

The ENT doctor would be able to determine which type is present. The steam is fine but you would need to be careful not to cause any burns to your skin.

I hope this helps.

Regards,
Dr. Michelle Gibson James
General & Family Physician
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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