(Earwax; Earwax impaction; Ear Impaction; Ear Blockage)
Cerumen impaction is a buildup of earwax that blocks the ear canal. Earwax normally cleans and protects the ear canal. When too much builds up, it can affect hearing and cause other problems.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
This problem may be caused by:
- The ear not naturally clearing itself—the earwax dries and hardens
- The ear producing too much earwax
- Putting objects into the ears—this pushes earwax deeper into the ear canal
Earwax impaction is more common in males, older adults, and children.
Other things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms of earwax impaction may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor will do an ear exam to diagnose the condition.
The goal of treatment is to remove earwax from the ear canal. This can be done with:
- A curette—an instrument shaped like a scoop
- Suction—vaccuming the loosened earwax
- Flushing—the impacted earwax is flushed out
- Ear solutions to soften earwax and ease removal
The risk may be lowered by:
- Not putting anything in the ears—including cotton tipped swabs
- Using medicines to prevent the buildup of earwax
- Seeing the doctor to remove earwax buildup, as advised
American Academy of Audiology
American Speech–Language–Hearing Association
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Cerumen impaction. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/cerumen-impaction-earwax-buildup-and-blockage. Accessed February 18, 2021.
Cerumen impaction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cerumen-impaction. Accessed February 18, 2021.
Michaudet C, Malaty J. Cerumen impaction: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2018;98(8):525-529.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN Last Updated: 2/18/2021