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Earwax Impaction: Causes, Symptoms, Effects & Treatment

By Nupur Jha

Earwax, which is also known as cerumen, plays a crucial role in maintaining your health. Earwax comprises of components such as shed skin cells, oil and other particles. It helps in protecting the skin of the ear canal, keeps the ear skin moist and lubricated and protects the ears from microbes such as fungi and bacteria as well as from insects and water.

Earwax can easily be cleaned without any assistance in healthy people but in old people it becomes difficult and this wax build-up can lead to serious health consequences.

According to health experts, too much earwax build-up can cause earwax blockage which is also known as cerumen impaction.

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Symptoms Of Earwax Impaction:

  • Feeling pain in the ear
  • Feeling fullness in the ear
  • Experiencing difficulties in hearing with the condition growing worse
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Odour coming from the ear
  • Feeling itchiness and irritation in the ears
  • Dizziness
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How Earwax Impaction Affects Adults?

The issue of earwax impaction is very common. Compared to young people, elderly people are more prone to this condition. Causes such as a decline in one's ability to take care of oneself and self-grooming etc., result in wax build-up in the ear
"Cerumen build-up in older adults is an extremely common issue we see. Most people don't even realize that they have an issue. The cerumen is much drier than when we were younger, so it gets hard and it creates basically a plug," said Dr Maria Torroella Carney, division chief of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine for Northwell Health in New York, as quoted by Healthline.

People experience loss of hearing as well as discomfort triggered by balance issues and pressure build-up. According to studies hearing loss has been linked to dementia and cognitive decline and wax build-up in the ear can worsen the condition.

Cerumen build-up affects the functioning of the brain adversely and also causes sudden changes in the mood.

Our inner ears, eyes, muscles and joints play an important role in maintaining our body's balance. These parts of our body form the vestibular system that sends signals to our brain and help us in maintaining our body's balance. Without this, it would become difficult for us to carry out activities like standing, running and walking. If you are experiencing balance problems you should consult a doctor. You can also get your balance checked by an audiologist.

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Treatment For Earwax Build-up

Though earwax build-up can lead to various health problems and even affect your brain's functioning, this condition is treatable and the hearing loss is reversible.

Doctors often advise you to use over-the-counter wax softening drops which you need to put in your ears after tilting your head to the side. You need to leave it for around 5 minutes and let the drop settle. You can let the drop drain after that.

Doctors use curette - a small plastic spoon - to remove the earwax. Other treatments include using warm water, sodium bicarbonate or some ear drops to irrigate your ear. Using gentle suction is another method the doctor can use to clear the wax build-up.

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How To Prevent Earwax Impaction?

Ear doctors and experts often advise us to avoid using earbuds. Consulting ENT specialists for getting your ear canals checked is the best thing to do, especially for elderly people who use devices such as hearing aid. You should get earwax removed from your ear by a professional to stay safe. Consulting a doctor can also aid in detecting any other prevailing ear-related issues.

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