The ears are the organs responsible for a person’s sense of hearing. The ears are protected by a thin layer of earwax also known as cerumen. Cerumen helps protect the ears from harmful pathogens, cleans the ears, lubricates the ears, and protects the ear canal’s sensitive skin. Left to accumulate and with improper cleaning practices, cerumen can become impacted and lead to various problems.
What is Impacted Cerumen
- Impaction of cerumen is caused by an excessive production of earwax by the body.
- Some individuals produce more cerumen than others making them more prone to cerumen impaction.
- Cerumen is composed of shed layers of skin from the ear canal mixed with dust particles and secretions from glands in the ears.
- Cerumen naturally flows out from the inner canal to the outer canal, keeping the inner clean and the outer canal lubricated.
- Cerumen impaction is caused when the person produces an excess of earwax.
- This excess earwax can build up and accumulate and cause an impaction.
- Impaction can also occur through improper cleaning practices.
- Cleaning the ears with a thin and small material only pushes the earwax back and causing an impaction as the canal grows smaller.
Impacted Cerumen Symptoms
The symptoms of a cerumen impaction typically include:
- Loss of hearing
- Hearing difficulty or hearing impairment
- Pain in the ear due to increased pressure within the ear canal
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
- Itchiness in the ear which under normal conditions does not occur
- Vertigo or the feeling of being in motion when the body is actually standing still
- Cough develops as a result of cerumen impaction causing an irritation within the upper respiratory tract.
Impacted Cerumen Treatment
Treating cerumen impaction is quite easy and is also widely-practiced and available.
- Removal of impacted earwax – the most practical and the first line of treatment is to remove the offending earwax by softening it before it is removed.
- Syringing – removes the cerumen through the process of irrigation.
- Vacuuming – although present in the market as do-it-yourself kits, it is best to have cerumen vacuumed by a professional.
- Curettage – with the help of a trained professional, ear wax is removed using curettage or a form of ear pick.
- Cerumenolysis – removes and treat cerumen impaction with the use of a cerumenolytic agent which enables the earwax to come out on its own.