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Earwax blockage occurs when earwax accumulates in your ear or becomes too hard to wash away naturally.
Earwax is a helpful and natural part of your body's defences. It protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria. It's not known why some people experience earwax blockage or why earwax blockage often occurs in only one ear.
If earwax blockage becomes a problem, you or your doctor can take simple steps to remove the wax safely.
Signs and symptoms of earwax blockage may include:
- Feeling of fullness in the affected ear
- Ear noise
- Decreased hearing in the affected ear
When to see a doctor
If you're experiencing the signs and symptoms of earwax blockage, talk to your doctor.
Signs and symptoms could indicate another condition. You may think you can deal with earwax on your own, but there's no way of knowing whether you have excessive earwax without having someone, usually your doctor, look into your ears.
Having signs and symptoms, such as earache or decreased hearing, doesn't necessarily mean you have wax buildup. Even if you've had a past problem with earwax, you can't be sure that wax buildup is the cause of your current symptoms. It's possible you have another medical condition involving your ears that may need attention.
Wax removal is most safely done by doctor. Asking your doctor to remove earwax may seem unnecessary, but your ear canal and eardrum are delicate and can be damaged easily by excess earwax. Don't try to remove earwax yourself with any device placed into your ear canal, especially if you've had ear surgery, have a hole (perforation) in your eardrum, or are having ear pain or drainage.
Children usually have their ears checked as part of any medical examination. If necessary, a doctor can remove excess earwax from your child's ear during an office visit.
Your doctor can remove excess wax using a small, curved instrument called a curette or by using suction while inspecting the ear. He/she can also flush out the wax using a water pick or a rubber-bulb syringe filled with warm water.
Never attempt to dig out excessive or hardened earwax with available items, such as a paper clip, a cotton swab or a hairpin. You may push the wax further into your ear and cause serious damage to the lining of your ear canal or eardrum.
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