Although human earwax is medically referred to as cerumen, the compound actually consists of two different glandular secretions, namely cerumen and sebum. Aside from keeping the ears properly lubricated, earwax also acts as a natural cleaner. It is antibacterial, antifungal, and a general barrier against pathogens, foreign objects, and liquids.
In other words, we all need wax in our ears to keep the auditory system healthy and functional. However, earwax can become problematic if it leads to a blockage, and in case the blockage is not cleaned out in time, it can lead to even further complications.
What Causes Earwax Blockages?
Earwax is not supposed to accumulate and cause an ear canal blockage under normal circumstances. Old earwax is supposed to be pushed out of the canal by new earwax naturally, keeping the aural pathways clean and lubricated. In case that is not happening, it’s most likely a result of:
- Excess hair growth and/or long, untrimmed hair inside the ears.
- Ear canals that are tighter and narrower than normal, be it due to congenital defect or acquired damage.
- A glandular disorder that leads to over secretion of sebum.
- Any chronic ear infection that leads to swelling of the ear canal, aka otitis externa.
If someone has any one or more of the above conditions, they will need to get their ears cleaned periodically by a certified professional to prevent ear canal blockages.
What are the Symptoms of an Earwax Blockage?
If there is indeed a build-up of earwax large enough for it to be problematic, people generally experience several symptoms such as:
- Minor to severe loss of hearing.
- Significant difference in hearing capabilities between the two ears.
- A feeling that is similar to having water in your ear, but without the sloshing sound.
- A literal feeling of having one or both of your ears being obstructed by something.
- Consistent itchiness and tinnitus.
- Odorous discharge from the ear(s).
The symptoms will vary in their intensity depending on how severe the blockage is, as well as the original reason responsible for the obstruction. The intensity of these symptoms will increase if they are ignored and left untreated. Most of the resulting complications can be easily avoided with professional ear cleaning sessions at regular intervals. Contact Hear Clear NI for a quick appointment and painless session of ear cleaning.
When Should You See a Doctor?
An untreated earwax blockage may lead to an ear-infection, while an untreated ear-infection may start to spread, affecting the sinus and the throat first. If your ear canal blockage is also accompanied by coughing, sneezing, fever, and/or a runny nose, it could be a sign of the infection spreading. Immediate medical checkup is highly recommended to prevent the situation from becoming any worse than it already is.
You would also need to see a doctor if the reason responsible for the ear canal blockage is not an excess buildup of earwax. There are other diseases such as cholesteatoma which can also block the ear canal with a constant buildup of skin tissue deep inside the ear canal.