(Earwax; Ear Impaction; Ear Blockage)
DefinitionCerumen is the soft yellow wax made by glands in your ear canal. It is more commonly known as earwax. Cerumen impaction is a build-up of earwax that becomes wedged in, blocking the ear canal.
|The Ear Canal|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
CausesCerumen impaction is usually caused by:
- An inability of the ear to naturally clear itself of cerumen due to hardening
- Putting objects into your ears that push the cerumen deeper into the ear canal
Risk FactorsCerumen impaction is more common in older adults. It can cause hearing loss. Other factors that may increase your chance of cerumen impaction include:
- Trying to remove cerumen with a cotton-tipped swab
- A twisted, narrow, or complicated ear canal
- Ears that overproduce or make thick cerumen
- Dense hair growth in the ear canal
- Hearing aid use
- Intellectual disability
SymptomsSymptoms may include:
DiagnosisYou will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An ear exam will be done to look for impacted cerumen.
TreatmentTreatment involves removal of the earwax from the ear canal. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Cerumen can be removed by:
- Using one of several instruments, including:
- Curette—This is a surgical instrument shaped like a scoop.
- Suction—When the cerumen is loosened, the earwax will be vacuumed.
- Flushing—The impacted cerumen may be rinsed using flushing equipment.
- Ceruminolytic agents—A ceruminolytic agent may be prescribed. This is a liquid-like solution used in the ear to soften the earwax and ease removal.
- Damage your eardrum—the membrane that vibrates and transmits sound to the middle ear
- Make yourself more prone to otitis externa—an infection or inflammation of the skin that lines the ear canal
- Injure the ear canal
- Cause the cerumen to become more impacted and more difficult to remove
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