How To Remove An Ear Wax Blockage

how to remove an ear wax blockage

Imagine yourself unable to enjoy the birds singing in the August trees, the whispers of your lover laying close, the joyful voices of children playing around… Imagine yourself unable to think of anything else except how to remove an ear wax blockage.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Or rather does not sound at all, if you are currently dealing with such a condition. But worry not, as this article will teach you everything you need to know, on how to remove an ear wax blockage. From ear wax, the blockages that it can cause, and how to treat them at your own home using only safe remedies that won’t cost you a fortune.

What is ear wax?

Ear wax, earwax, and cerumen are all common names for the waxy substance produced in your ear canals. It’s usually yellow or brown in color and is made of shed skin cells mixed with the secretion of the glands present in your ear, mostly sebaceous and ceruminous (thus the name “cerumen”).

Does ear wax have any functions?

Well, of course, just as any other substance produced in your body.

Fun fact: it was for this feat that ear wax was recommended a couple of centuries ago as a wound-healing agent, and even proposed as a remedy for cracked lips in the 1832 book The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those who are Not Ashamed of Economy. It was even used as a base for the first lip balms in human history!

  • Ear wax keeps the skin of your ear canal well-moisturized, thus preventing dry cracks and similar wounds that could lead to ear infections.

  • Finally, cerumen is your body’s natural way to get rid of dead skin cells.

In other words, it’s a fairly useful and good substance, cerumen. But in some cases, it can pile up, harden and lead to ear wax blockage (also known as cerumen impaction).

This isn’t always accompanied by hearing loss though. If you have excess ear wax in your ear – you have ear wax blockage, even if your hearing isn’t impaired for the time being. Studies reveal that around 10% of all children, 5% of healthy adults, and as much as 57% of elderly people have cerumen impaction, and not all of them experience hearing loss. Other symptoms of ear wax blockage include:

  • Tinnitus

  • Itching, discomfort, and pain in the ear canal

  • Visible masses of cerumen

  • Cough (a rare symptom caused by the earwax pressing on the auricular branch of the nervus vagus)

Ear wax blockage may even be absolutely devoid of any symptoms, but you never know when the situation may worsen, so it’s good to know what to do in such a case.

What are the common causes of ear wax blockage?

how to remove an ear wax blockage

  • Cotton swabs. Yep, that’s right. Cotton swabs were never meant to help you clear your ear canal. In fact, they can easily push part of your ear wax deeper and deeper, thus leading to blockage. Cotton swabs are recommended to use only for the cleaning of the external part of your ear.

  • Foreign objects in the ear canal (including cotton swab tips).

  • Excess production of cerumen.

  • Excess hair growing in the ear canal.

The good news is that regardless of the causes, the treatment of cerumen impaction is always the same. Let’s take a good look at the most effective approaches and learn how to remove an ear wax blockage at home!

How to remove an ear wax blockage?

salt and water solution

  1. Use saline solution (salt and water)

Have you ever heard the fancy name “cerumenolytics” when learning the conventional approach to treating earwax blockages? Cerumenex, Debrox, Cerumol, Colace… They come in many forms and shapes. But here’s the trick: a 2007 study has confirmed that none of these is better than your usual saline.

The instructions are simple:

  • Mix one tablespoon of kitchen salt in half a cup of warm water.

  • Carefully put 3-5 drops of the resulting liquid in your ear using a clean dropper or a soaked cotton ball. This will soften the cerumen masses.

  • After around 5 minutes of exposure tilt your head and let the liquid pour out.

  • If needed, repeat the procedure.

  • If the blockage persists, spring the solution directly into your ear canal using a clear syringe (without a needle!), thus washing out excess earwax. And don’t worry, you won’t be able to manually apply enough pressure to damage your eardrum, just don’t insert the syringe too deep.

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide

This old-school antiseptic has a lot of fabulous properties. In fact, besides helping you to fight ear infections, it can also soften up your ear wax, and the bubbles of released oxygen will help to detach it from the walls of your canal.

  • Using a clean dropper pour 3-5 drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide into your ear.

  • Wait for 3-5 minutes, then carefully tilt your head to let the liquid pour out.

  • Repeat procedure if necessary.

  • If the blockage persists, carefully spring warm saline solution directly into the ear canal using a syringe without a needle to wash out excessive cerumen.

  1. Baby oil or olive oil

Both of these do a great work in softening excess ear wax and helping you to remove it from your ear. And the instructions are also identical:

  • Carefully put 3-5 drops of either baby oil or olive oil directly into your ear canal using a clean dropper. The oil will soften and loose up the ear wax.

  • Wait for around 5 minutes, then tilt your head to let the oil pour out.

  • If needed, irrigate the ear canal with warm saline solution using a clean syringe without a needle

  1. Ear Wax Removal Kits

Alternatively, you can try out an ear wax removal kit if you want. They consist of a cerumenolytic agent (a substance that will soften your ear wax and make it easier to wash out) and a special springer to help you apply it to your ear. Popular brands include Murine, Debrox, and Cerumenex.

But, again, we want to remind you that salt and water solution was scientifically confirmed to be just as effective.

The bottom line

Although very unpleasant, ear wax blockages (also known as cerumen impactions) are fairly easy to treat at home, using exceptionally cheap and safe remedies.

The most popular of them are:

  • Saline solution (water and salt)

  • Olive oil or baby oil

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Ear wax removal kits

You can follow the instructions provided above to get rid of your blockage in a matter of minutes, without harming neither your health nor your wallet. Just a couple of steps – and you’ll again be able to enjoy all the sweet melodies this beautiful world has to offer you.

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  1. I had no idea that this was something that you could treat yourself in your own home, let alone the number of options to try! This would definitely save an unwanted trip to the doctors. Thank you for the very knowledgable post!
    If using cotton buds can actually cause this, do you know what is better to use?

    • Thank you for you question, it’s best not to put any foreign object into our ears. Inot most cases the ear drops solutions I provided should do the job. But if these fail then I recommend getting yourself an earwax removal kit or to see a specialist. 

    • The same saline solution you’d use to undo the blockade can be used to prevent it, or just swimming in the sea once or twice a week. Just don’t fill your ears with solution everyday. Heck, even letting a good amount of steam into your ears when you shower, then dry the outer ear with a towel should be enough.

  2. Great information here!

    I knew we weren’t supposed to clean our ear canals with any objects but I didn’t really know why.

    As a kid, I remember my Mom saying that we should never use cotton swabs to clean our ears. We must only use our towels to clean the external part of our ears which would guarantee that no foreign objects would be inserted in our ear canals.

    Good to know that dripping 3-5 drops of saline solution are enough to remove an ear wax blockage. I’ll sure spread the word! Thanks!

    • Thank you for your comment Eliane. I was doing it wrong all my childhood, as I didn’the know any better. A simple saline solution is all you need though ano does the job perfectly.

  3. I stumbled on your site and I want to put this out there because I think it’s really important. Three years ago, my ear was clogged and I used Debrox to clear it up. I have had tinnitus ever since. After washing the Debrox out of my ear, I immediately got it. It wasn’t listed as a side effect on the box, but I did some reading up on this and I’ve seen stories that many other people have had the same experience. It’s not worth it to use this product and I would give anything to go back to the time I’d never heard of Debrox!

    • Hi Kate, thank you for sharing your experience with debrox. I hope you can find something on this website that can help relieve your tinnitus.

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