Ear impaction; Cerumen impaction; Ear blockage; Ear wax
Most cases of ear wax blockage can be treated at home. The following can be used to soften the wax in the ear:
Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may help remove the wax.
Another method of removing wax is called irrigation. Use body-temperature water (cooler or warmer water may cause brief but severe dizziness or vertigo). With your head upright, straighten the ear canal by holding the outside ear and gently pulling upward. Use a syringe to gently direct a small stream of water against the ear canal wall next to the wax plug. Tip your head to allow the water to drain. You may need to repeat irrigation several times.
Never irrigate the ear if the eardrum may not be intact. Irrigation with a ruptured eardrum may cause ear infection or acoustic trauma. Do not irrigate the ear with a jet irrigator designed for cleaning teeth (such as a WaterPik) because the force of the irrigation may damage the eardrum.
After the wax is removed, dry the ear thoroughly. You may use a few drops of alcohol in the ear or a hair dryer set on low to help dry the ear.
If you cannot remove the wax plug or irrigation causes discomfort, consult a health care provider, who may remove the wax by:
Occasionally, the wax must be removed with the help of a microscope.
Click here to see a video about tips on removing ear wax.
Wax blockage of the ear usually responds well to removal attempts. However, it may happen again in the future. Hearing loss is usually temporary. Hearing usually returns completely after the blockage is removed.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your ears are blocked with wax and you are unable to remove the wax.
Also call if you have an ear wax blockage and you develop new symptoms, especially:
Riviello RJ, Brown NA. Otolaryngologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 64.
Armstrong C. Diagnosis and management cerumen impaction. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Nov 1;80(9):1011-1013.
House JC, Lee DJ. Topical therapies of external ear disorders. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 138.
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