Ear Wax management at CDH

Ear wax is a normal product of the ear which protects the skin of the ear from water and infection. Ear wax is formed from wax glands in the external ear canal as well as other components such as dead skin, sweat, and oil. The primary component of ear wax is keratin (derived from dead skin). More about ear wax is found here.

Ear wax problems

  1. Wax can plug up the ear, causing hearing to be reduced, and a full feeling in the ear. This is called an "impaction". About 2-6% of the population has an ear wax impaction at any time. People vary enormously in the rapidity that wax accumulates.
  2. Wax can trap bacteria in the ear, leading to infection. This is usually painful or at least itchy.
  3. Ear wax can obscure vision when the doctor looks in your ears, possibly hiding a dangerous process.
  4. Ear wax is the most common cause of hearing aid malfunction.

Ear wax removal

Practically, ear wax removal is sometimes needed to properly examine the ear, for hygiene, and to do proper testing. Although using cotton tipped applicators is a common practice, we recommend against using cotton tipped applicators. We also advise against using hair pins, and similar devices to clean the ear. This can be dangerous because you run the risk of breaking your ear drum ("perforation"), as well as jamming wax deeper inside.

Danger of using q-tip

At the CDH clinic, we mainly use small lighted curettes, designed for ear wax removal. In other words, we use "direct vision".

For tougher cases, we have patients prepare by using a commercial softening preparation a few days later, and we syringe with warm water. Rarely we use a Welch Allyn commercial ear wax removal system. We use tympanometry for safety. If our audiologists or technicians cannot remove wax, they can call on one of our physicians for assistance and use of a microscope/suction machine. However, our goal is to keep the ear wax under control with simpler techniques.

Appointments can be scheduled solely for ear wax removal through our front desk, reception@dizzy-doc.com. We recommend a periodic schedule - often every 6 months is appropriate.

For information about our Audiology Service, see this page.


Last saved: September 14, 2020