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Can ear wax impair your hearing?

"by " Albert Stein

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a completely normal product of the ear. We all have it, but do you know why we have it, or how it can impact your hearing? Read on to find out more.

Wax glands in the external ear canal produce cerumen to protect the ear against water and infection*, according to American Hearing. Some people produce a lot of it and others not so much, and interestingly, there is an inherited difference between people who have wet ear wax and those with dry ear wax*.

Most of the time, ear wax is either completely unnoticed or only a minor nuisance. Sometimes however, cerumen can build up and cause problems with hearing.

If wax builds up, it can create a blockage in the ear canal*, providing a barrier for sounds and therefore not allowing the ear to function as well as it could. In fact, this is one of the most common causes of temporary hearing loss. Such a build-up may also present itself as an earache, noises in the ear or a sensation that the ear is full*.

Another possibility is having either too little or too much ear wax – either of these can lead to an ear infection* which, if left untreated, may result in hearing loss*.

Treatment for excessive ear wax is best performed by a doctor, GP or audiologist. They may use water jets, drops or other equipment to remove the blockage*.

It’s also important to get a hearing test if you think you may have hearing loss – while the issue may simply be excess ear wax, knowing the underlying cause of the problem is the best way to find a solution.

*American Hearing. Ear Wax. Updated October 2012. Can be accessed here.

*Medline Plus. Ear Wax. Accessed November 19 2014. Can be accessed here.

*American Academy of Otolaryngology. Ear infection and hearing loss. Accessed November 19 2014. Can be accessed here.