Ear Wax – Breaking down the buildup


The ear canal often times gets buildup of a yellow substance we call earwax. The glands in the ear canal produce this substance for no exact known reason other than to trap particles and dust before they might reach the eardrum. Without realizing it, most of the time ear wax dries up and become a crust that drops out of the ear along with the debris. However, we know that when we take a Q-tip and wipe the inside of the ear, the aftermath isn’t always clean and nice. We all have ear wax, and we all have different amounts of it. Just like hair color or how tall you are, ear wax amount is determined by genetics. We don’t normally discuss ear wax quantity with others, so most of us don’t know the difference between having a lot versus having a little in comparison. We just know that sometimes we have more than other times.

When earwax is heavily built up, there can be a few signs letting you know this. You can feel you ears are plugged, you might feel dizzy, hearing might be difficult, the ears might be ringing, and the ears might be feeling a little painful. Having blockage or impaction can happen, but most of the time it’s from people using cotton swabs, bobby pins, or rolling napkins and trying to clean out their ears. On another note, people who use hearing aids and/or ear plugs usually do have more earwax buildup than others.

Earwax treatment and safe self-care approached do exist. At home remedies include using drops of baby oil, hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, apple cider vinegar with rubbing alcohol, coconut oil, tea tree oil, almond oil, baking soda and water, and/or glycerin. There are over the counter kits that act like an irrigation system to flush the ears. The ear candling method is not recommended. This is when a hollow cone made of paraffin and beeswax is used that’s part of a cloth. One end is placed in the ear and the other is lighted with a flame. When the flame burns, a vacuum is created that hallows out the wax.

When you have your regular yearly physical with your doctor, ask if earwax cleaning can be done. Most times the doctor has no problem doing this for you. Since you cannot see into your ear canal, you really don’t know how much is in there so it can’t hurt to ask. Your doctor does examine the canal as part of the physical, but never hurts to get cleaned up since you are there anyways. Wax on, wax off, and get that earwax out of there. Just another way to take care of the little things that are part of your health before the big things could potentially happen. Listen to your body, which means there can’t be wax impeding on the sound of your body’s messages 

Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction) – Seth R. Schwartz, Anthony E. Magit, Richard M. Rosenfeld, Bopanna B. Ballachanda, Jesse M. Hackell, Helene J. Krouse, Claire M. Lawlor, Kenneth Lin, Kourosh Parham, David R. Stutz, Sandy Walsh, Erika A. Woodson, Ken Yanagisawa, Eugene R. Cunningham, 2017 (sagepub.com)

Ear drops for the removal of ear wax – PMC (nih.gov)

Waxing lyrical: taking ear wax seriously | Postgraduate Medical Journal | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Earwax problems: Symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatment (medicalnewstoday.com)

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.