May also be called: Ear Impaction; Ear Blockage; Earwax Blockage; Impacted
Earwax; Cerumen Inspissatum
Impacted cerumen (se-ROO-men) is when earwax
(cerumen) builds up in the ear and blocks the ear
canal; it can cause temporary hearing loss and ear pain.
More to Know
Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal, which leads from the outer ear to
the eardrum. Earwax helps protect the ear by trapping dust and other foreign particles
that could damage the ear. Normally, earwax moves toward the opening of the ear and
falls out or is washed away, but some people's ears produce too much wax. The extra
wax can build up and harden in the ear canal and become difficult to remove. Earwax
also can become impacted when, during ear cleaning, the wax is accidentally pushed
deeper into the ear canal.
Impacted cerumen can cause earaches, temporary hearing loss, ringing in the ear
(tinnitus), coughing, or a feeling that the ear is full or plugged. It also can increase
the risk of an outer ear infection.
Impacted cerumen should be removed by a doctor to help avoid damaging the ear. Treatment
options include removing the earwax with instruments or by flushing the ear canal
with special liquids.
Keep in Mind
Impacted cerumen may improve on its own, but treatment by a doctor is generally
safe and effective. Hearing usually returns completely after the impacted earwax is
removed. Trying to remove impacted cerumen at home with a cotton swab or by ear candling
is not recommended.
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