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Can Earwax Cause Hearing Loss?

Published: 07/14/2015

Last Updated: 08/01/2017


The short answer is yes. In fact, earwax, or cerumen, is the most common cause of conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is the result of a physical barrier, like excess wax, stopping sound from traveling from the outer ear to the inner ear. Luckily, conductive hearing loss can usually be reversed by removing the blockage.

You might have an earwax blockage if you experience any of the following:

  • Hearing loss
  • Earache 
  • Itching
  • Coughing
  • Fullness in your ear or feeling like your ear is plugged 
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)

However, don’t think that earwax is bad for your ears. It can only cause hearing loss if it builds up too much or if you attempt to clean your ear and end up pushing it back into the ear canal.

What is earwax and why does it exist?

Earwax is an oil produced near the outside of your ear in order to trap dust, bacteria, and other potentially harmful things. When you chew and move your jaw, this helps the natural migration of earwax as it moves from the ear canal to the visible part of your ear.

Through this process, your ears are designed to clean themselves. You need some earwax in order to keep your ears healthy, and its absence may even result in dry or itchy ears. Most people shouldn’t need to clean their ears. However, some people may produce excess wax, have an ear canal that doesn’t allow the wax to escape, or find that some other factor makes manual wax removal necessary.

I can just use cotton swabs, right?


Cotton swabs (or any other foreign objects) should never be used to clean the inside of your ears as it may push the wax in further into the canal and cause an impaction. Earwax isn’t produced near the eardrum, so a blockage in that part of the ear is an indication that wax has been manually pushed inward.

Not only that, but cotton swabs and other foreign objects could easily damage the delicate parts of the inner ear, especially the eardrum.

So what’s the best way to clean my ears?

If you find yourself with excess wax and wish to remove it, professionals recommend using something like baby oil, glycerin, or over-the-counter ear drops to soften it. Afterward, it will be able to make its way out of your ear naturally and be wiped away with a clean, gentle cloth.

Don’t try this removal technique if you think you might have a hole in your eardrum, as this could cause pain, infection, or hearing loss.

If you still find yourself with excess wax, or if you’re uncomfortable with the procedures above, your local hearing healthcare provider can help you remove it with prescription eardrops, delicate washing, or even gentle suction.

If you find yourself in this situation, make an appointment with your local provider today.


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