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Earwax (cont.)

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Earwax Buildup or Blockage?

Earwax buildup and blockage can be associated with a number of symptoms including:

  • Decreased hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Ear pain
  • Plugged or fullness sensation in the ear
  • Ringing in the ear

When to Seek Medical Care for Earwax Buildup or Blockage

When to go to the doctor

  • If at-home removal of earwax is unsuccessful
  • If you suspect you have a perforated eardrum (recent ear infection, injury, loud noise, or pressure change from flying or scuba diving)
  • If you develop drainage from your ear
  • If you experience severe pain, fever, or continuing hearing loss

When to go to the hospital

  • If you have a severe spinning sensation, loss of balance, or inability to walk
  • If you have persistent vomiting or high fever
  • If you have a sudden loss of hearing

How Is Earwax Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose earwax buildup or blockage (or eardrum perforation) by listening to the patient's symptoms and then looking into the ear with an otoscope (ear-scope).

How Is Earwax Removed?

  • In most cases, earwax should not be removed. It only needs removal when a person experience earwax symptoms of earwax buildup or blockage.
  • Earwax buildup or blockage treatment and removal may be accomplished at home with over-the-counter softening ear drops, or a bulb type syringe to gently flush the ear with warm water.
  • Medical treatment for excess earwax buildup or blockage removal may include instruments to remove the earwax or by irrigating the ear with warm water or prescription eardrops (cerumenolytic agents).
  • Medical removal is recommended if the wax is obstructing the view of the ear drum, or if symptoms are present including decreased hearing or the presence of pain.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/22/2016
Medical Author:

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Earwax (Excess Buildup and Blockage):

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Earwax Buildup and Blockage - Causes

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Earwax Buildup and Blockage - Symptoms

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Earwax - Treatment and Removal

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Cerumen Impaction Removal »

Removal of cerumen (wax) from the ear is a significant amount of the workload of an otolaryngologist and is, therefore, an essential skill to master.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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