Earwax Buildup: How to Know If You Have Too Much & When to See a Doctor

Earwax typically dries and falls out of your ear naturally, but sometimes things can get a little backed up.

Earwax Buildup: How to Know If You Have Too Much & When to See a Doctor

Many people try to remove earwax, but your ears actually need it! This natural wax helps catch dust and other foreign objects, which helps prevent infection. But how do you know if you have too much? And what would you even do about it?

Earwax typically dries and falls out of your ear. But sometimes things can get a little backed up. Your ears may feel full or your hearing may be muffled if there's some extra wax. In that case, you can safely clear your ears at home with a cotton ball — watch the video below to see how. However, DON'T put a cotton swab or anything similar in your ears. This can — and usually does — lead to a bigger problem.

Earwax Buildup

Wax can build up in your ears due to a variety of factors — how your ears are shaped, the specific way your body makes wax, your age, the use of hearing aids or earplugs, and failed attempts to remove the wax. Using that cotton swab in your ear can actually push the wax farther down the ear canal, where it can get stuck and become impacted.

Watch for these symptoms of buildup:

  • Decreased hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Ear pain
  • Itchy ears
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Cough

Some signs an infection has developed include:

  • Serious ear pain
  • Draining from the ear
  • Odor coming from the ear
  • Fever

Other Possible Complications:

  • Perforated eardrum
  • Infection in the middle-ear (air-filled space behind the eardrum)
  • Temporary or permanent hearing loss
  • Water retention in the ear canal

Be sure to see your doctor when you notice signs of earwax buildup. They'll be able to expertly and safely clean the problem wax from your ears.

Ways a Doctor Can Remove Earwax:

  • Scoop it out manually with special tools, such as a curette scoop
  • Flush your ear with warm water, baking soda solution, or other irrigations or drops to break up the wax
  • Gently use a suction tool to remove the wax from the ear

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