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Ear Wax

Too much of a good thing

You may not want to hear this: earwax is a good thing. Inside the ear canal, earwax helps us trap dead skin cells, hair, and dirt. As our jaws move when we chew or talk, the earwax gets pushed out, along with the debris it mops up along the way.

But if you have earwax blockage,

You may not hear this: too much earwax is a bad thing. Excessive earwax can cause:

  • Partial hearing loss

  • Earache

  • Feeling of fullness in the ear

  • Ringing or noises in the ear (tinnitus)

Earwax removal

For the DIYers, resist the temptation to dig out the earwax. Do not use any object, such as a cotton swab, to dig out the wax because it may push the wax further into the ear or cause serious damage to the eardrum.

If your eardrum does not have a hole in it and you do not have an ear tube, earwax softening and/or irrigation can help remove excess wax.  Water and oil-based earwax softeners are available over the counter. Follow the earwax removal kit instructions as directed. Keep in mind that with a large wax burden, several attempts may be needed to provide relief.

If you have eardrum damage, your ear hurts, you have hearing loss that persists after you clean the wax, or if home remedies fail, you should seek medical evaluation. A doctor can help you remove stubborn earwax by use of special instruments or ear irrigation.


Hanger HC, Mulley GP. Cerumen: its fascination and clinical importance: a review. J R Soc Med. 1992 Jun;85(6):346-9.

S, Woodson EA, Yanagisawa K, Cunningham ER Jr. Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Jan;156(1_suppl):S1-S29.

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