Have you started turning the TV up a lot recently? Are you struggling to hear what your partner says to you (and you are not deliberately being selective)? Is someone snoring next to you no longer waking you up at night?!
Then you might, in fact, be experiencing some sort of hearing loss.
There can be many reasons for this, but most often, it is because you have a build-up of ear wax – or ear wax blockage - which is blocking your ears and affecting your hearing.
Ear wax is important, and you should not worry about finding it, as it is designed to help keep the ear clean, healthy and protected.1
However, sometimes we can find that we have a bit too much of it, and this can cause problems of its own.
So, how do you know when you have excessive ear wax? And what can you do about it?
What causes ear wax build up?
Usually, your ear wax falls out of your ear on its own.
You often will not notice this, as it gets washed away in the shower, and the process of creating new wax begins again.
However, sometimes this does not work out quite the way it should, and a build-up begins.
A build-up of impacted ear wax might be because your body simply produces too much, or because you have hairy or narrow ear canals.2
Your age can be another factor in the build-up of ear wax, as it starts to become harder and therefore it becomes more difficult for it to fall out of the ear.
If you use a hearing aid, earplugs or earbuds, then they may be helping to push the wax further into your ear, causing it to become compacted and blocked.
If you want to know more about why you may have an ear wax build up, take a look at our article called ‘Do you have excess earwax?’.
How do I know I have an ear wax build up?
One obvious sign that you might have a build-up of wax in your ear is a difficulty in hearing properly.
Things might seem quieter or more muffled than usual, and excessive ear wax is often the cause.
An ear wax build up can become painful. You may find that you suffer from earache in the ear that has the build-up or that it begins to itch.
Our ears are linked to closely to our sense of balance, so a build-up can lead to sensations of dizziness or even hearing high-pitched tones inside the ear, which is known as tinnitus.3
The good news is that once the ear wax has been removed, you should find the symptoms improve.
If they fail to do so, make sure you speak to your doctor.
Ear wax removal: how to get rid of ear wax
When it comes to removing a build-up of ear wax, please remember not to put anything into your ears.
As many an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) surgeon will advise, “Do not put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!”4
Instead of removing it, using a cotton bud for example, can force ear wax deeper into your ear, causing it to compact and form a greater blockage than you had before.
It is also very easy to push too far into your ear, which could lead to you damaging your ear drum, which is very painful and can have a big impact on your hearing.
One simple way to remove ear wax is to soften it. This can be done by dripping a solution of warm salt water, olive oil or almond oil into the ear, as you lie ear up, with your head on a towel.5
Once you sit up, the fluid will then drain back out. If you repeat this process over a few days, you should find that the symptoms subside.
If a build-up of ear wax becomes a regular problem, you can keep eardrops to soften the wax and help it to fall out on its own.6
If you visit a pharmacist for help with an ear wax build up, they may offer you chemical drops to help dissolve it.
If this does not work, then you may need a GP to assist with the ear cleaning by flushing out the wax with water or syringing it out in a process called microsuction.7
Ear wax build up is a simple problem with a number of simple solutions, but if any of your symptoms persist, you should make sure that you speak to a doctor.
A guide to earwax removal
For more information on managing an ear blockage due to a build-up of wax, you might like to browse this handy guide.
A guide to earwax removal
Last updated: 06 May 2021