Comprehensive Earwax Information: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by the body that plays a crucial role in maintaining ear health. In this guide, we'll explore the causes of earwax build-up, its symptoms, and various treatment options. Additionally, we'll provide information on how to safely remove earwax at home and when to consult an ear care professional.

What is Earwax and Why Does It Form?

Earwax (cerumen) is a waxy substance produced by the sebaceous and ceruminous glands in the ear canal. Its primary functions are to:

  1. Protect the ear from dust, debris, and bacteria
  2. Moisturise the ear canal, preventing dryness and itching
  3. Trap and remove foreign particles before they reach the eardrum

Under normal circumstances, earwax moves naturally to the outer part of the ear and eventually falls out. However, issues may arise if an excessive amount of earwax accumulates or becomes impacted.

Symptoms of Earwax Build-up

An earwax impaction or build-up can lead to various symptoms, including:

  • Earache or pain
  • Decreased hearing
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Dizziness
  • A sensation of fullness or pressure in the ear
  • Itching
  • Ear discharge or odour
  • Coughing

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's essential to seek appropriate treatment to prevent complications, such as ear infections or hearing loss.

Safely Removing Earwax at Home

It's crucial to clean your ears with caution to avoid damaging the ear canal or eardrum. Some safe at-home methods for earwax removal include:

  1. Over-the-counter ear drops: Many ear drops are designed to soften earwax and help it move out of the ear canal. Look for drops containing hydrogen peroxide, sodium bicarbonate or glycerin. These can be quite aggressive so we always recommend oil as a first port of call.

  2. Olive oil drops and ear sprays: Apply a few drops or squirts of oil into the ear to soften and help dislodge the earwax.

  3. Warm water irrigation: Gently irrigate the ear canal with warm water using a bulb or plunger type syringe or an ear wax removal syringe kit. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully.

For a detailed guide on removing earwax at home, check our Ultimate Home Earwax Removal Guide.

Warning: Avoid Cotton Swabs

It's essential to avoid using cotton swabs, which can push earwax deeper into the ear canal, increasing the risk of impaction and damage to the eardrum.

When to See a Professional for Earwax Removal

If you're experiencing persistent symptoms or are unsure about how to remove earwax at home, it's crucial to consult a medical professional. Visit our earwax clinic locations to find a clinic near you.


Professional earwax removal methods include:

  1. Microsuction: This gentle and effective technique involves using a small suction device to remove the earwax. Learn more about how microsuction works.

  2. Irrigation: A healthcare professional uses a specialised syringe to gently flush the ear canal with warm water. Discover more about how irrigation works.

  3. Manual removal: In some cases, a healthcare provider may use specialised tools like a curette to manually remove the earwax.

To explore the various treatment options, visit our treatments page and check out testimonials from satisfied patients on our testimonials page.

Can Earwax Build-up Cause Hearing Loss?

Yes, excessive earwax build-up can lead to temporary hearing loss. When earwax accumulates and becomes impacted, it can block the ear canal and disrupt the transmission of sound waves to the eardrum. By safely removing the build-up, normal hearing can be restored.

How Often Should I Clean My Ears?

There is no specific frequency for cleaning your ears, as everyone produces earwax at different rates. In general, you should clean your ears only when you notice excessive earwax or experience symptoms of buildup. Over-cleaning can lead to dryness and irritation.

Preventing Earwax Build-up

To prevent earwax build-up, consider the following tips:

  1. Avoid using cotton swabs or inserting objects into your ear canal.
  2. Keep your ears clean and dry, especially after showering or swimming.
  3. Use over-the-counter ear drops or oils to soften and remove earwax if needed.

For more information on preventing earwax build-up naturally, read our article on how to prevent earwax build-up naturally.

Natural Remedies for Earwax Removal

Some popular natural remedies for earwax removal include:

  1. Olive oil or almond oil
  2. Hydrogen peroxide (diluted)
  3. Warm water irrigation

Always exercise caution when using natural remedies and follow the guidelines outlined in our Ultimate Home Earwax Removal Guide.

Can Earwax Removal Cause Damage to the Ear?

When performed correctly and gently, earwax removal is safe and should not cause damage. However, improper techniques or aggressive cleaning can lead to ear canal injury or eardrum perforation. Consult a healthcare professional if you're unsure about the best approach for your situation.

Additional Earwax-related Queries

  • Does earwax build-up cause dizziness? In some cases, excessive earwax can cause dizziness due to pressure on the eardrum or disruption of the ear's balance system.

  • Can earwax removal help with tinnitus? If tinnitus is caused by earwax impaction, removing the build-up may alleviate the symptoms.

  • How long does it take for earwax to form? Earwax production varies among individuals, but generally, it takes a few weeks for earwax to move from the middle part of the ear canal to the outer part, where it falls out naturally.

  • Is it safe to use ear candles for earwax removal? No, ear candles are not recommended due to the risk of injury, burns, and eardrum perforation. Learn more about the dangers of ear candles in our article Do Ear Candles Work?.

  • Does earwax build-up cause ringing in the ears? Earwax impaction can cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Removing the build-up may help alleviate the symptoms.

  • How to clean the ears of babies? Cleaning a baby's ears should be done with extreme caution. Gently wipe the outer ear with a soft, damp cloth. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal, and consult a paediatrician if you suspect a build-up.

Just in case we haven't covered everything...

  • Earwax removal for kids: Safely removing earwax in children should always involve a healthcare professional. They can assess the situation and recommend the most appropriate method.

  • Best earwax removal products: Over-the-counter ear drops, earwax removal syringe kits, and specialised tools are available for safe earwax removal. Consult our home earwax removal kit page for more information. Avoid using anything yourself that goes deeper than your finger even if it has a camera.

  • Can earwax cause ear infections? Earwax build-up can create an environment for bacterial growth, potentially leading to an ear infection. Removing the build-up can help prevent infections.

  • Is it safe to use hydrogen peroxide for earwax removal? When diluted and used correctly, hydrogen peroxide can be a safe and effective earwax removal method. However, it's essential to follow guidelines and not use it if you have a history of ear problems or a perforated eardrum. Try using oil drops and sprays first.

  • Can earwax cause balance problems? Excessive earwax can sometimes cause dizziness and balance issues by affecting the ear's balance system or putting pressure on the eardrum.

  • How often should I get my ears cleaned professionally? There's no specific frequency for professional ear cleanings. Consult a healthcare professional if you experience symptoms of earwax build-up or are unsure about how to clean your ears safely.

  • How to tell if I have earwax build-up? Symptoms of earwax build-up include hearing loss, earache, tinnitus, dizziness, and a sensation of fullness in the ear. If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be a sign of earwax impaction.

  • Can earwax cause headaches? In rare cases, excessive earwax build-up can cause headaches due to increased pressure in the ear canal.

And Finally...

Earwax is a natural substance that serves essential functions in maintaining ear health. However, excessive earwax can lead to various symptoms and complications. By following safe cleaning practices and seeking professional help when necessary, you can prevent earwax-related issues and maintain good ear hygiene. For more information about earwax and its management, visit our about earwax page and explore our website for helpful resources and guidance.