When you shower, always remember to wash your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Perhaps you even remember getting that advice as a kid. That’s the sort of memory that can remind you of simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of youth.
But that advice can be rather helpful. Out-of-control earwax accumulation can cause a substantial number of problems, particularly for your hearing. And on top of that, earwax can harden up inside your ear and become really difficult to clean. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clean.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
We get it, earwax isn’t the most appealing of substances. And we’re not going to try to change your mind about that. But earwax does serve a purpose. Produced by specialized glands in your ear and churned outwards by the chewing motions of your jaw, earwax can help keep dirt and dust out of your ears.
So your ears will stay clean and healthy when they produce the ideal amount of earwax. However counterintuitive it sounds, the reality is that earwax itself is not a sign of bad hygiene.
The problems begin when your ears generate too much earwax. And, understandably, it can sometimes be a little bit challenging to tell when a healthy amount of earwax starts to outweigh its usefulness (literally).
What is the impact of accumulated earwax?
So, what happens as a result of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of control and, over time, builds up, can cause several issues. Those issues include:
- Tinnitus: When you hear buzzing and ringing that isn’t really there, you’re usually dealing with a condition known as tinnitus. Earwax buildup can cause tinnitus symptoms to worsen or to appear.
- Infection: Excessive earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid accumulates, it can become trapped behind plugged earwax.
- Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends greatly on your inner ear. So when accumulated ear wax causes your inner ear to have issues, your balance can be affected, causing you to feel dizzy.
- Earache: An earache is one of the most prevalent signs of excess earwax. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can really hurt. This typically happens when earwax is creating pressure in places that it shouldn’t be.
This list is just the beginning. Headaches and pain can occur because of unchecked earwax buildup. Excess earwax can hinder the functionality of hearing aids. This means that you may think your hearing aids are having problems when the real issue is a little bit too much earwax.
Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?
The quick answer is yes. One of the most typical problems connected with excess earwax is hearing loss. Usually producing a kind of conductive hearing loss, earwax builds up in the ear canal, preventing sound waves and vibrations from getting in. Your hearing will typically return to normal after the wax is cleaned out.
But there can be sustained damage caused by accumulated earwax, particularly if the buildup gets severe enough. And tinnitus is also typically temporary but when earwax blockage persists, long-term damage can cause tinnitus to become an enduring condition.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
It’s a good idea to keep track of your earwax if you want to safeguard your hearing. It’s improper cleaning, not excess production that causes buildup in most instances (a cotton swab, for instance, will often compress the earwax in your ear rather than getting rid of it, eventually causing a blockage).
It will often require professional eradication of the wax that has become hardened to the point that you can’t remove it. The sooner you get that help, the sooner you’ll be capable of hearing again (and the sooner you’ll be capable of cleaning your ears the right way).
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