Video Transcript

1) https://musom.marshall.edu/anatomy/grosshom/z_EAR.htm; (2) http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care (paragraph 2); (3) http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care (paragraph 2); (4) http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/yucky/earwax.html (paragraph 3); (5) http://healthtools.aarp.org/health/earwax-buildup (paragraph 1); Leah Curney, host.; Noah Forman, host.; Sound Effects: freeSFX.

[DRUM SOUNDS] [WAXY SOUND] [BOING] NOAH: Earwax-- of all the waxes in the human body, it's probably the most misunderstood wax. For one, ear wax-- shouldn't it be called ear boogers? Leah: Yes, it should, Noah. But that is a pipe dream, and we both know it. NOAH: Yes, but hear me out-- Leah: Let it go, Noah. NOAH: It's got-- Leah: Let it go. NOAH: --but I-- mm. Leah: Really. Just-- NOAH: Mm-hm. Leah: Instead, let's focus on the wonder that is ear wax. [MUSIC PLAYING] The outer ear canal has special glands that produce an oily, waxy substance called cerumen, more commonly known as ear wax. NOAH: Should be called ear boogers. Leah: Agreed. But this is not the time, Noah. After the wax is produced, the motion we make when we chew helps move the wax from the outer ear canal to the opening of the ear. NOAH: Then it either falls out or is removed when you wash. [WATER FALLING] [WHISTLE] But why do we even have these ear boogers or ear wax? Leah: Because it has several key jobs, like protecting and moisturizing the ear canal, [WATER RUNNING] preventing dry, itchy years, [TRUMPETS] and it also traps dust, particles, and microorganisms trying to get deeper into our ear canals and kicks them to the curb. EAR WAX: Wah! [KARATE KICKS] Leah: So I bet that'll make you think twice about cleaning your ears. NOAH: You know, my grandmother used to say, the only thing you should put in your ear is your elbow. Leah: She sounds like a wise woman. NOAH: She also invented the term ear boogers. Leah: Oh, makes her all the more wiser. NOAH: Love you, Grandma. [DING] [MUSIC PLAYING]

Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Although scientists are still not completely sure why we have earwax, it does trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from reaching, and potentially damaging or infecting the eardrum. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear, along with any trapped dust or debris. Everyone makes ear wax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair color or height. Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the naturally occurring wax to get out of the canal and lead to wax impactions.

Earwax Causes

Blockage, or impaction, also occurs when the wax gets pushed deep within the ear canal. Earwax blockage is one of the most common ear problems doctors see.

  • The most common cause of impactions is the use of Q-tips (and other objects such as bobby pins and rolled napkin corners), which can remove superficial wax but also pushes the rest of the wax deeper into the ear canal.
  • Hearing aid and earplug users are also more prone to earwax blockage.

Earwax Symptoms

Symptoms of an earwax impaction include:

When to Seek Medical Care for Earwax

See your doctor if you think you may have any symptoms of an earwax impaction. Other conditions may cause these symptoms and it is important to be sure earwax is the culprit before trying any home remedies.

Go to the hospital if:

  • You have a severe spinning sensation, loss of balance, or inability to walk
  • You have persistent vomiting or high fever
  • You experience sudden loss of hearing

Exams and Tests

A doctor can diagnose earwax blockage (or eardrum perforation) by listening to your symptoms and then looking into your ear with an otoscope (ear-scope).

Earwax Treatment and Self-Care at Home

Your doctor may recommend that you try an earwax removal method at home, unless you have a perforation (hole) or a tube in your eardrum.

  • Over-the-counter wax softening drops such as Debrox or Murine may be put into the affected ear and then allowed to drain out after about five minutes while holding the head to the side, allowing the drops to settle. Sitting up again will let the drops drain out by themselves.
  • A bulb-type syringe may be used to gently flush the ear with warm water. The water should be at body temperature to help prevent dizziness.
  • Ear candling is not recommended. The procedure uses a hollow cone made of paraffin and beeswax with cloth on the tapered end. The tapered end is placed inside the ear, and an assistant lights the other end, while making sure your hair does not catch on fire. In theory, as the flame burns, a vacuum is created, which draws the wax out of the ear. Limited clinical trials, however, showed that no vacuum was created, and no wax was removed. Furthermore, this practice may result in serious injury.


Medical Treatment for Earwax Blockage

The doctor may remove your earwax with a small plastic spoon called a curette, or irrigate your ear with warmed water, sodium bicarbonate, or other prescription-strength eardrops. The doctor may also use gentle suction to remove the wax.

Preventing Earwax Blockages

Earwax blockage can often be prevented by avoiding the use of cotton-tipped swabs or Q-tips and other objects that push the wax deeper into the ear canal.


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on January 20, 2020



Gayle M Galletta, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Massachusetts.

Rakel: Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed.

Mayo Clinic. 

Roberts: Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine, 5th ed.; Chapter 64


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