Pronounced: suh-ROO-men im-PAK-shon
Cerumen is the soft yellow wax secreted by glands in your ear canal. It is more commonly known as earwax. Cerumen impaction occurs when earwax becomes wedged in and blocks the ear canal.
Earwax has many useful purposes. One of the main uses is that it helps fight bacterial ear infections and protects the inside of your ear.
Earwax moves out of your ear naturally. Earwax should not be removed by you. In fact, continuously trying to clean your ear of cerumen by using a cotton swab, for example, can damage your ear. By trying to remove earwax, you can:
It is important to prevent cerumen impaction before it happens. It has been found to cause hearing loss.
This condition can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have cerumen impaction.
Cerumen impaction is usually caused by inability of the ear to naturally clear itself.
Factors that contribute to cerumen impaction include:
Factors that increase your risk of getting cerumen impactation include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to cerumen impaction. These symptoms may be caused by other, less or more serious health conditions.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. When you go to your doctor, he or she will look into your ear with a special light called an otoscope. Your doctor will look for impacted earwax.
Treatment involves removal of the earwax from the ear canal. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Cerumen can be removed by:
Do not use ear candles. This involves placing a fabric tube soaked in wax into the ear. The candle is then lit. Using ear candles can cause serious injuries, including burns, ruptured eardrums, and blockage of the ear canal.
If you are diagnosed with cerumen impaction, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chances of getting cerumen impaction, take the following steps:
American Academy of Audiology
American Speech–Language–Hearing Association
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
Cerumen impaction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 30, 2012. Accessed February 1, 2013.
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Pray WS, Pray JJ. Earwax: Should it be removed? US Pharmacist. 2005;30(5).
2/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Ear candles: risk of serious injuries. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov... . Published February 20, 2010. Accessed February 26, 2010.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 2/1/2013