Earwax Blockage: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of the anatomy of the ear

Earwax is a natural substance that protects the ear canal. Normally, earwax drains from the ears and does not cause problems. Sometimes earwax builds up and hardens. Earwax blockage (also called cerumen impaction) can cause some loss of hearing and pain. When wax is tightly packed, you will need to have your doctor remove it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not try to remove earwax with cotton swabs, fingers, or other objects. This can make the blockage worse and damage the eardrum.
  • If your doctor recommends that you try to remove earwax at home:
    • Soften and loosen the earwax with warm mineral oil. You also can try hydrogen peroxide mixed with an equal amount of room temperature water. Place 2 drops of the fluid, warmed to body temperature, in the ear two times a day for up to 5 days.
    • Once the wax is loose and soft, all that is usually needed to remove it from the ear canal is a gentle, warm shower. Direct the water into the ear, then tip your head to let the earwax drain out. Dry your ear thoroughly with a hair dryer set on low. Hold the dryer 8 to 10 centimetres from your ear.
    • If the warm mineral oil and shower do not work, use an over-the-counter wax softener followed by gentle flushing with an ear syringe each night for a week or two. Make sure the flushing solution is body temperature. Cool or hot fluids in the ear can cause dizziness.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Pus or blood drains from your ear.
  • Your ears are ringing or feel full.
  • You have a loss of hearing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have pain or reduced hearing after 1 week of home treatment.
  • You have any new symptoms, such as nausea or balance problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: May 27, 2016