Cerumen Impaction or Earwax Blockage is a condition when excess cerumen (earwax) accumulates in the ear canal and begins to cause symptoms, interferes with ear examination or both.
Earwax blockage is not a medical emergency.
Cerumen has an important role in trapping dust and foreign particles and preventing them from going deeper into the ear and causing harm. Cerumen provides lubrication which helps to prevent the scaling of the skin within the ear. It has antimicrobial properties and helps to prevent some infections. Old cerumen is naturally cleared by the body as new cerumen is produced and is aided by the movement of the jaw and epithelial migration in the ear canal. Under certain circumstances, the cerumen is either too hard to be naturally moved out or has been pushed too deep from where it cannot be removed naturally. This results in the impaction of cerumen or earwax blockage.
Some of the causes of earwax blockage are:
Some of the symptoms and signs of earwax blockage may include:
No investigations are necessary to establish a diagnosis of earwax blockage other than a clinical evaluation via otoscopy.
The diagnosis of earwax blockage is established based on medical history and clinical evaluation.
The treatment of earwax blockage is the removal of the excess and accumulated cerumen from the ear canal using gentle intervention and medication.
Medical management of earwax blockage includes:
Impacted cerumen is removed by one of the following methods, preferably after it has been softened with earwax softeners.
There are certain conditions of earwax blockage under which the following is done:
It is not advisable to try and remove ear wax at home with kits that are available over the counter. It can lead to the cerumen being pushed deep inside and can result in serious complications such as rupture of the eardrum
Earwax blockage rarely causes complications. Complications can be seen however when attempts are made to remove the impacted earwax either by self or through unqualified personnel. Complications include:
The prognosis for cerumen impaction is excellent if treated by a specialist after a thorough examination of the ear.
It is advisable to seek medical attention if the symptoms of earwax blockage persist over a few days and are affecting the ability to hear.
Hospitalization is not required for cerumen impaction.
Cerumen impaction will be attended to by specialists from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT).