All you need to know about ear wax plug removal

Written by: Top Doctors®
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Ear wax is a natural secretion that forms in the outer part of the ear canal and in which the skin that is flaking off the ear canal accumulates along with secretion from some of the ear glands. Ear wax has defensive properties to prevent infection of the skin of the ear canal and the amount of secretion depends on the time of year, genetic factors and age.

What causes ear wax plugs?

Ear wax plugs are caused by an excess of ear wax production which may be due to an infection, scratching of the ear, or the use of cotton buds (Q-tips) which help to compact and push the ear wax to the inside of the ear where it is harder to reach. Instead of cleaning the ear, cotton buds acheive the opposite, blocking it up even more with ear wax.

What are the symptoms of ear wax plugs?

Ear wax plugs can cause hearing discomfort, clogging, sometimes hearing loss, ringing in the ears or a feeling of instability. Other ear wax symptoms include dizziness and even ear pain.

How is ear wax treated?

There are a number of available ear wax plug treatments available. Solvent droplets are often used to soften ear wax prior to its removal. The most common method for cleaning the ear is by washing the ear canal with disinfected warm water (ear syringing). This creates a pressure that pushes the ear wax out. 

There are other methods for the extraction of ear wax such as using a blunt hook that enables the extraction of harder ear wax plugs without damaging the canal and skin, and also the use of miniature vacuum cleaners with microscopic vision to clean more liquid wax or any remaining water after washing. Occasionally, topical antibiotic drops are also given to prevent infection of the skin after earwax plug removal.


By Topdoctors
Otolaryngology / ENT

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