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Earwax (cont.)

Which Specialties of Doctors Treat Earwax Blockage?

Earwax buildup or blockage can be diagnosed and treated by your primary care provider (PCP), such as a family practitioner, an internist, or child's pediatrician. You may also see an emergency medicine specialist in a hospital's emergency department.

In severe cases you may be referred to an otolaryngologist, also called an ear-nose-throat specialist (ENT) for treatment.

How Can Earwax Buildup and Blockage be Prevented?

Earwax blockage can be prevented by avoiding the use of cotton-tipped swabs or Q-tips and other objects that push the earwax deeper into the ear canal.

A study has also suggested that earwax buildup may be prevented by application of a topical emollient.

Individuals with hearing aids should be routinely examined for earwax impaction (cerumen impaction) every 3 to 6 months.

What Is the Outlook for a Person with Chronic Earwax Buildup and Blockage?

Earwax serves an important function in keeping the ears healthy and should not be removed unless the buildup is causing blockage and other symptoms. Once excess earwax blockage is removed, the prognosis is very good and symptoms will disappear. In some patients there can be complications, including:

  • Perforated eardrum
  • Middle-ear infection
  • External-ear infection (swimmer's ear)
  • Permanent hearing loss from acoustic trauma

REFERENCES:

Chai TJ, Chai TC. Bacteriicidal activity of cerumen. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 1980; 18(4):638-41.

Dinces, E.A., MD. "Cerumen." UpToDate. Updated: Jul 30, 2015.
<http://www.uptodate.com/contents/cerumenhttp://www.uptodate.com/contents/cerumen>

Ernst E. Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science. J Laryngol. Jan 2004; 118(1):1-2.

Saloranta K, Westermarck T. Prevention of cerumen impaction by treatment of outer ear canal skin. A pilot randomized controlled study. Clin Otolaryngol. Apr 2005; 30(2):112-4.

Stone M, Fulghum RS. Bactericidal activity of wet cerumen. The Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology. Mar 1984; 93:183-6.

WhatleyVN, Dodds CL, Paul RI. Randomized clinical trial of docusate, triethanolamine polypeptide, and irrigation in cerumen removal in children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Dec 2003; 157(12):1181-3.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/22/2016
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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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