Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Although scientists are still not completely sure why we have ear wax, it does trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from reaching, and potentially damaging or infecting the eardrum. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear, along with any trapped dust or debris. Everyone makes ear wax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair colour or height. Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the naturally occurring wax to get out of the canal and lead to wax impactions.
Blockage, or impaction, also occurs when the wax gets pushed deep within the ear canal. Earwax blockage is one of the most common ear problems we see.The most common cause of impactions is the use of cotton buds (and other objects such as bobby pins and rolled napkin corners), which can remove superficial wax but also pushes the rest of the wax deeper into the ear canal. Hearing aid and earplug users are also more prone to earwax blockage.
Symptoms of an earwax impaction include:
* Decreased hearing
* Ear pain
* Plugged or fullness sensation
* Ringing in the ears
* Itching or drainage from the ear canal