A buildup of wax, or impacted wax, can present itself in many ways. The most common of which will be the feeling of your ears being blocked or clogged up.

But did you know that the body actually needs earwax?

Earwax is a natural substance used to trap foreign debris from entering your ears; the wax prevents unwanted bacteria and fungi from growing, which can lead to ear infections, so it’s true to say we should embrace it.

But, having too much earwax or, worse, impacted earwax can present its own set of challenges. Temporary hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in your ears, dizziness, headaches, or even balance issues can all be due to an over buildup of wax.

The root of this problem varies greatly from patient to patient, but the most common issue is the use of cotton swabs. By using this common bathroom utensil, you end up pushing earwax deeper into your ear canal, and that leads to blockage.

All too often, patients come to visit us thinking they have a hearing loss problem, and they are relieved to find out that the problem is wax buildup and that there is an easy solution. For these cases, routine cleaning is needed to be performed by a professional.

SIDE NOTE: Over-the-counter hearing aids are sometimes very dangerous for this reason, as there is no consultation with a professional of any kind. This has caused more serious problems for thousands of people who need proper hearing care in the first place.   

There are plenty of resources online that promise to alleviate any hearing issue you think you may have. The problem is that some of these can be very harmful to your hearing if misdiagnosed.

Due to years of experience in dealing with the unique hearing environments that Alaska presents, we have compiled the 5 most common ways to unblock your ears, weighing the good and the bad of each one.

#1 – Over-The-Counter Ear Drops

Ear drops are an over-the-counter treatment and can relieve some mild cases of earwax buildup.

However, whether your case is ‘mild’ or not is difficult to self-diagnose and should be taken with a grain of salt (not literally).

In most cases, if you feel that earwax is built up or even impacted, then you are past the point of a “small” amount of wax.

This is the dilemma most patients face. Do you risk your health to pursue a DIY method through online research, or just go right to the professional assistance of a doctor of audiology?

The low price of ear drops can be attractive and may work for patients with minimal wax buildup, but seeking advice from an audiologist can professionally confirm your suspicions.

#2 – Use Hot Wax Candles

This approach, whereby you drip hot wax into the ears to “melt” the earwax, has gained some notoriety online, and the instructional videos have become quite popular; however, please approach this method with extreme caution.

The chances of you burning yourself or your hair are very high, and there is no proof that dripping hot wax onto wax actually works.

Our advice is to stay away from this method at all costs.

#3 – Pick Out The Wax Using A Cotton Swab

Used for generations by parents everywhere, the classic cotton swab has been hated by children for equally as long.

There is not much technique here, as it seems everyone just twisted it in there and gathered as much wax as they could.

In reality, this is probably the reason for the buildup in the first place. The action of sticking the cotton swab into an ear will cause the wax to be pushed deeper. If you poke around too deep, then you could cause a more severe issue.

In this case, all children are correct to refuse the cotton swab ear cleanse. Adults as well should steer clear of this method.

#4 – Use Olive Oil 

The use of olive oil has been common for many years. When used in small quantities, it is generally safe.

It’s not a quick fix and may take a couple of days for the olive oil to soften the wax enough for it to finally fall out, but it’s still much safer than other methods.

There are many low-cost, over-the-counter olive oils available for this exact reason, and it’s a very straightforward approach.

Although, there are some pitfalls.

If you have a history of allergies to olive oil, then you should avoid this, as it could cause a reaction. Also, if you have a ruptured eardrum, then olive oil can make it worse, so please avoid it.

On the whole, if you have a mild case of wax buildup, then similar to OTC ear drops, the olive oil method may work for you.

#5 – Visit An Audiologist

We have saved the best for last, as visiting an audiologist is the only guaranteed way to address your condition properly.

If you’re experiencing signs of blocked ears, then it’s likely that you’ve passed the window where the other common at-home approaches will be effective for you. At this point, you’ll require the attention of a specialist such as myself, who, by my own admission, “loves to clean ears!”

By utilizing professional equipment, such as an Earigator, Head Loop, and manual removal, I am highly experienced in helping the good people of Anchorage and Eagle River enjoy an earwax-blockage-free life.

I also take detailed notes of your current hearing, which I can use to develop a long-term healthy hearing care plan if you so wish. 

Earwax Removal Experts In Anchorage & Eagle River

It’s true we are a team of doctors of audiology who love to clean ears. The team at Alaska Hearing & Tinnitus Center has helped thousands of patients, many of which were in the exact situation you’re in right now.

With offices in Anchorage and Eagle River, we’re regularly visited by people from all over our wonderful state.

To ask a question or schedule an earwax removal appointment, then please click here for full information and to find the contact information for your local office.

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Dr. Emily McMahan

Dr. McMahan attended the University of Cincinnati where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2009. She furthered her professional education by obtaining her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in Philadelphia in 2013. She completed her residency in Anchorage and has been applying her expertise to her patients in the Pacific Northwest for several years. Whether you need hearing testing, hearing aids, or assistance with managing tinnitus in your daily lives, Dr. McMahan is qualified to assist you!