Wax Blockage

Blockage of the ear canal by earwax, often causing a feeling of fullness and irritation in the ear

  • Age, gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

Earwax, produced by glands in the ear canal, cleans and moistens the canal. Usually, wax is produced in small quantities and emerges naturally from the ear. However, if the canal becomes blocked with wax, it causes a feeling of fullness and discomfort and sometimes hearing loss. A common cause of wax blockage is insertion of a cotton swab or finger into the canal in an attempt to remove the wax. This action usually pushes the wax deeper into the canal. Excessive secretion of wax may also lead to blockage.

Wax blockage can be treated with over-the-counter eardrops, which usually dissolve the earwax in about 4–10 days. If the ear remains blocked, you should consult your doctor. He or she will probably use a viewing instrument to inspect the ear canal (see Otoscopy) and may gently flush out the ear with warm water from a syringe to remove the wax. If flushing is ineffective, the wax may be removed with a suction device. Wax blockage sometimes recurs.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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