Earwax, or cerumen, is created by the ear to help lubricate and protect the ear from external debris. Most of the time earwax naturally leaves the ear by chewing and other jaw movements. As earwax reaches the outside of the ear, it flakes and falls out.

Ears are self-cleaning, but sometimes earwax builds up. When earwax builds up in the ear canal and can’t naturally pass it is said to be impacted. Earwax impaction is especially prevalent in older adults, affecting as many as 55% of elders in nursing homes. Hearing aids and earplugs can contribute to earwax impaction.

Earwax impaction may feel like fullness, pain, or itching in the ear. Someone with earwax impaction may also feel dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

If you or someone you know may have impacted earwax, see your ear, nose, and throat professional. An Orlando ENT specialist will be able to diagnose impacted earwax by looking into the ear with an otoscope.

Impacted earwax can be treated with irrigating the ear, dissolving the earwax with medication, and/or a professional manually removing the earwax. Your Orlando ENT professional can talk to you about the pros and cons of each treatment and which one is right for you.

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