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Alternative namesEar impaction; Cerumen impaction; Ear blockage; Ear wax
DefinitionWax blockage is obstruction of the ear canal with cerumen (wax).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The ear canal is lined with hair follicles and glands that produce a waxy oil called cerumen. This protects the ear by trapping dust, microorganisms, and other foreign particles and preventing them from entering and damaging the ear. The wax usually makes its way to the opening of the ear where it falls out or is removed by washing.
Wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss .
Signs and tests
During a physical examination, the health care provider will look into the ear for signs of wax blockage.
Most cases of ear wax blockage can be treated at home. Mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops can be used to soften wax in the ear. Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may aid in the removal of wax.
Wax blockage of the ear usually responds well to removal attempts, but may happen again in the future. Hearing loss is usually temporary and usually returns completely after removal of the blockage.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if the ears are blocked with wax and attempts to remove the wax are unsuccessful.
Individuals who suffer from frequent blockages may benefit from weekly irrigations. Never attempt to clean the ear by placing any object into the ear canal (such as a Q-tip). It is better to clean the outer ear canal by using a cloth or tissue paper wrapped around your finger.
Update Date: 2/6/2003Steven Angelo, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT