Why Do You Have Too Much Ear Wax?

Earwax, also called cerumen, is a sticky, oily substance secreted in the ear canal. Its purpose is to protect the ear against the entry of foreign debris, fungi, insects, dirt, and bacteria. The wax also shields the skin of the ear canal from irritation by water. If your glands produce more wax than necessary, it can harden and block your ear. 

Why Do I Have So Much Ear Wax?

Ear wax problems can be caused by:

1. Genetics

Genetically, more than normal earwax is secreted in some people’s ears. You are more likely to have excessive ear wax production if there’s a family history of the same.

2. Surroundings

Particles like debris, microorganisms and too much dust in the air can enter the ear canal. Excess wax production, therefore, occurs because the ear manufactures more wax to deal with the situation.

3. Habits

In case you are always listening to loud music or wear earphones frequently, your ears produce more earwax for self-protection. Besides, earphones and headphones can prevent wax from dropping out. The same can happen if you use hearing aids.

4. Cleaning

The incorrect attempt of earwax elimination using bobby pins or sharp objects may cause skin scratches. To protect against irritation, your ears will manufacture excess wax.

5. Inner Ear Infection

Wax production by sebaceous glands in the middle ear helps to eliminate dirt here, thereby preventing bacteria from getting into the inner ear. Once microorganisms enter the inner ear, wax cannot remove them. Moreover, any pus that oozes into the middle ear may cause increased wax secretion that can lead to wax buildup.

6. Other Causes

Other causes of increased wax in the ear include ear canal narrowing (stenosis), hair overgrowth within the canal and hypothyroidism. All this can lead you to wonder "Why do I have so much ear wax?"

What Are the Complications of Having Excess Earwax?

While earwax is essential, excess of it can lead to problems like earwax blockage and buildup.

Signs and Symptoms of Earwax Buildup

Earwax appearance ranges between light yellow and dark brown. A darker colored wax does not necessarily signify a blockage.

Earwax buildup signs include:

  • Temporary, partial or total hearing loss that occurs suddenly
  • Tinnitus, buzzing or ringing in one or both ears
  • Sensation of fullness within the ear
  • Aching within the ear

Infections can arise due to accumulation of earwax. Seek medical advice in case you have symptoms like the following:

  • Extreme pain in the ear
  • Unrelenting pain in your ear
  • Feeling of dizziness
  • Fever
  • A cough
  • Hearing loss that does not subside
  • Oozing from your ear
  • Odor exiting from the ear

Hearing loss, earaches, and dizziness may also be caused by various other factors. For that reason, you need to seek medical advice in case of frequent symptoms. A complete medical examination will help determine the cause of the problem.

How to Remove Excess Ear Wax

Home Remedies

Provided there is no hole in your eardrum, the following self-care measures will help clear excess earwax from your ear canal:

  • Soften the earwax by applying drops of mineral oil, glycerin or baby oil into your ear using an eyedropper.
  • Clean out with warm water. Using a rubber-bulb syringe, wash out the softened wax one to two days after applying the drops. Gently squirt the warm water into the ear canal. Tilt your head and pull the outer ear up and back to aid in removing the wax. Finally, drain the water out by tipping your head sideways when you are done irrigating.
  • Dry your ear canal. Gently, use a hand-held dryer or a towel to dry your outer ear when done.

It may be necessary to repeat the procedure a few times before excess earwax drops out. The softening agents may, however, cause the outer wax layer to loosen and go deeper into the ear or even against the eardrum. In case your symptoms don’t improve after several cleanings, see a doctor.

Although you are justified to ask "Why do I have so much ear wax?" you should avoid trying to dig it out with such things as cotton swabs, paper clips or hairpins. This is because doing so may push wax deeper into the ear and cause more serious problems, including injury within the ear canal or even the eardrum.

Medical Help

You can also buy earwax removal products from chemists and stores. If you suffer from recurrent excess ear wax production, consult your doctor for advice about safe and effective excess earwax removal.

The doctor can clean out hardened earwax using suction or a special, curved tool called a curet. The doctor may also remove the wax by flushing it out using a rubber-bulb syringe filled with warm water. 

In cases of recurring wax buildup, your doctor can recommend the use of a wax-removing medicine such as carbamide peroxide. However, this medication may irritate the delicate ear canal and eardrum skin. For this reason, only use it as directed.

Warning About Ear Candles

Food and Drug Administration warns consumers against using marketed ear candles as remedies for ear wax buildup and other conditions since the products may be unsafe.

According to the FDA, use of ear candles can cause the following:

  • Ear and facial burns
  • Bleeding
  • Holes in the eardrum
  • Injuries due to dripping wax
  • Fire

These candles can be even more injurious to young children. The FDA indicates that serious injuries and burns, some needing outpatient surgery have been reported. FDA assumes that such incidents are under-reported.

You are encouraged to seek professional advice if you are considering using the products.

What Can I Do to Prevent Excessive Earwax?

If you are always questioning "Why do I have so much ear wax?" know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, there are no proven methods of preventing excess cerumen.

However, you are advised to desist from inserting cotton-tipped swabs or other objects into your ear canal. If you use hearing aids or suffer from recurrent cerumen impaction, it is recommended that you visit your doctor for checkup and routine cleaning at least two times in a year.

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