Cerumen, commonly known as earwax, is a natural protective substance produced by the glands in the ear canal. Its role is to lubricate the ear canals and prevent bacteria, debris, and foreign substances from travelling down the ear canal, closer to your eardrum.
Usually, cerumen will clear itself from the ear canals, but in some instances, it can accumulate and cause a blockage (cerumen impaction). If one is inserting a hearing aid or hearing protection into the ears daily, the cerumen can potentially be pushed into the ear canal, aiding in cerumen impaction.
Symptoms of a cerumen blockage include:
Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
Feeling of ear fullness
If cerumen impaction occurs, it needs to be removed. This can be done at home or at your audiologist’s or doctor’s office. The technique used depends on the location, type, and amount of cerumen within your ear canal.
Removal At Your Audiologist’s Office
At Carolyn Palage Audiology Services, Carolyn and Claudia have both obtained Advanced Certificates in Cerumen Management, enabling them to remove cerumen safely. The method that they use to remove the earwax is curettage. This involves using a curette, an instrument with a hook or scoop at the end, designed to remove cerumen from the ear canal. Curetting may be used in combination with the earwax softening procedure discussed below.
At-Home Earwax Removal
For some cases, the audiologist may recommend an “at-home earwax removal kit”. These kits can be purchased at the audiologist’s office or the drug store. The kit contains a liquid cerumen softener and a rubber syringe. It is usually recommended that the patient put the cerumen softener in the ear at nighttime, and flush the ear with warm (not hot) water from the syringe in the morning to flush out the wax. A bubbling and fizzing sensation in the ears is normal during this process. No pain should be experienced. If you are experiencing pain contact your audiologist. Your audiologist may recommend that this process is repeated for several days, and is often used in combination with curetting. These earwax removal kits are not recommended for all patients. Before attempting at-home earwax removal, it is advised to consult with your audiologist.
Earwax Removal Methods To Avoid
Many people use cotton swabs to try to remove earwax. However, this can sometimes cause more cerumen impaction, as it can push the cerumen further down into the ear canal, or cause an eardrum perforation. Using cotton swabs to remove earwax is not recommended.
Ear candling is also not recommended to remove earwax. Ear candling has not been proven to be successful in earwax removal, and has the potential to deposit candle wax into the ear canal.