Earwax is healthy at normal levels, but when it accumulates, it can cause serious problems. When the wax builds up enough to impact your ears, your symptoms could range from bothersome pain to potentially severe hearing loss.

For more information about earwax impaction, contact us at Hearing & Balance Services of Reston. In the meantime, take a few moments to learn about the condition and its symptoms, starting with the basics.

Earwax starts with good intentions

Ears are designed to clean themselves, so most people don’t need to clean them out manually. If you do attempt to clear wax away with cotton swabs or bobby pins, you run a higher risk of earwax impaction. About 12 million people in the United States seek medical care for the condition each year.

Other factors that may contribute include:

  • Bony blockage, such as osteoma
  • Infectious diseases, such as swimmer’s ear
  • Injuries
  • Narrow ear canals
  • Skin diseases, such as eczema
  • Wearing a hearing aid

Impaction can cause physical discomfort

As wax builds up in your ear, you’re likely to experience a range of uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as:

  • A sensation of fullness
  • Itchiness
  • Pain, such as deep aching

Earwax impaction can affect your hearing

In addition to physical sensations, earwax buildup can make it more difficult to hear. Without proper care, these hearing challenges may start out pretty mild and then gradually worsen.

You can also develop tinnitus, or a ringing sound in your ears, from earwax impaction. This, too, can detract from your ability to hear normally.

Discharge, odor

As earwax accumulates, causing blockage, bacteria can build up as well. This can lead to a watery discharge and a foul smell in your ears.

Because these symptoms can also indicate conditions such as a sinus infection, proper diagnosis from your doctor is important.

Cough, dizziness

While they may not seem obviously related, coughing and feeling dizzy can both derive from earwax impaction. A cough isn’t the most common symptom, but it can happen as a result of a nerve issue within the ear.

Also, because your inner ears play an important role in your sense of stability and balance, earwax impaction can also lead you to feel dizzy, as though your surroundings are spinning or a bit off-kilter.

Earwax impaction is very treatable

Diagnosing earwax impaction typically involves a comprehensive exam, where you discuss your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor also exams your ears.

When treatment is necessary, it may include a liquid medication you drop into your ear canal for a set time frame; irrigation of the ear canal by your doctor; or manual removal, performed with special tools at your provider’s office.

If you’re not sure whether you might benefit from an exam or treatment for earwax impaction, contact our office. We would love to get you on the road to greater comfort, ease, and hearing.