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Earwax blocked


Ear Wax & Blocked Ears


The ear canal cleans itself with a waxy secretion called cerumen. Cerumen is resistant to water, sticky (to trap dust) and migrates out of the ear canal to self-clean the ear. 

Sometimes, the wax builds up and causes symptoms, including mild deafness and a sensation of fullness inside the ear. This condition is harmless and easily treated. In some cases, the wax build-up loosens and falls out by itself without the need for intervention. 


Symptoms of wax build up

The symptoms of a wax build-up within the ear can include:

  • mild deafness
  • earache
  • a sensation of fullness inside the ear
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Why do we make wax?

The skin lining the ear canal contains glands that produce cerumen. This yellow or brown substance protects the tissues, and helps prevent infection by trapping micro-organisms, dirt and other irritants.

Wax is constantly travelling towards the outer ear where it can come out. Actions of the jaw, such as talking and chewing, help to move the wax out of the canal. The ear wax you see is a combination of cerumen, shed skin cells and dirt.


Why do I get so much wax?

Some people are more prone to ear wax blockage than others. Reasons for this include:

  • a tendency to produce a lot of ear wax – this may be genetic
  • narrow ear canals
  • hairy ear canals
  • overzealous cleaning with fingertips or cotton buds, which pushes wax further down the canals
  • working in dusty or dirty environments
  • inflammatory conditions of the skin or scalp.

Diagnosis and treatment for ear wax blockage

Your doctor can diagnose ear wax blockage by looking into your ear canal with an instrument called an otoscope.

Treatment may include:

  • drops to soften the ear wax and help it to fall out on its own
  • withdrawal of the wax by a doctor, using a suction device 
  • removal of the wax by a doctor, using forceps or a special hook 
  • large quantities of hardened wax may need to be treated by an ear specialist.

Prevention of ear wax blockage

It is not possible to reduce the amount of ear wax you produce or to widen your ear canals. However, there are ways to reduce the incidence of wax build-up, including:

  • Use wax-softening drops or oil twice a week, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Avoid cleaning the ear canals with cotton buds or fingertips, as any object poked into the ear can compact the wax.
  • Limit ear cleaning to the outer ear only.
  • Treat any associated inflammatory skin conditions.

Reference; Victoria State Government Better Health Series; Ear, Nose and Throat conditions – Ear wax.


Everything You Need to Know About Popping Your Ears.



Is it safe to pop your ears?

Having clogged ears can be uncomfortable and may muffle your hearing. When this happens, popping your ears may help.

Popping your ears is generally safe. It usually requires little more than moving your mouth muscles. Regardless of the technique you try, be gentle. If your symptoms worsen, stop trying to pop your ears and consult your doctor.

If you try to unclog your ears with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications, avoid prolonged use. If your symptoms persist, talk to your doctor.

8 ways to pop your ears.

There are several techniques you can try to unclog or pop your ears:

1. Swallowing
When you swallow, your muscles automatically work to open the Eustachian tube. This tube connects the middle ear to the back of your nose.

Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can also help activate this response.

2. Yawning
Yawning also helps open the Eustachian tube. If you can’t yawn on cue, try a fake yawn. Open your mouth as wide as it will go while breathing in and out. This may have the same result. Try “yawning” every few minutes until your ears pop.

3. Valsalva maneuver
Pinch your nostrils closed with your fingers. Try to keep your cheeks neutral, or pulled in, rather than puffed out. Next, blow air gently through your nostrils. This generates pressure in the back of the nose, which may help open the Eustachian tube.

4. Toynbee maneuver
For this technique, pinch your nostrils closed with your fingers while swallowing.

5. Applying a warm washcloth
Holding a warm washcloth or covered heating pad against the ear can help eliminate congestion and open the Eustachian tube. This method can also feel soothing. It may be most effective if you have clogged ears due to a cold, the flu, or allergies.

6. Nasal decongestants
Unclogging your nasal passageways can help with clogged ears. If you use an OTC nasal decongestant, make sure to follow the directions carefully. You may want to try the Valsalva or Toynbee maneuver after using a decongestant.

7. Nasal corticosteroids
There are many OTC nasal steroids you can try. Nasal steroids may help unclog your ears by reducing the amount of inflammation in the nasal passages. This can help air move more freely through the Eustachian tube, equalizing the pressure in your ears.

8. Ventilation tubes
In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend this simple surgical technique to eliminate pain and reduce pressure. For the procedure, your doctor will administer local anesthesia. Then, they’ll insert thin ventilation tubes, also known as pressure equalizing (PE) tubes, in one or both of your ears to drain out excess fluid.

The procedure takes around ten minutes. It’s usually performed in a doctor’s office, although it may also be done in a hospital. Ventilation tubes are designed to fall out on their own. This typically happens after one or two years.

How does ear popping work?

The Eustachian tube supplies air to the middle ear. This helps maintain equal amounts of pressure on both sides of the eardrum.

If there’s a difference in pressure, your eardrum may bulge inward or outward in response. This causes that familiar feeling of fullness in the ear.

Popping your ears helps move the eardrum back into place, alleviating the imbalance of pressure, and eliminating or reducing your discomfort.

The Eustachian tube typically opens automatically when you swallow, blow your nose, or yawn. When you do these motions, you’ll often hear a clicking, or popping, sound. The sound is caused by air entering the middle ear through the Eustachian tube.

If the tube does not open easily, it may be obstructed. This can be caused by fluid, mucus, or earwax.

What else causes ear popping?
Sometimes your ears may clog and unclog themselves naturally. This usually happens due to changes in the surrounding air pressure. If you’re climbing to a high altitude — for example, flying on an airplane or driving up a high mountain range — your ears may pop as they adjust to the air pressure around you.

When to see your doctor
If you can’t pop or unclog your ears two weeks or longer, or are experiencing pain in the ear, consult your doctor.

Your doctor can rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing this sensation. These may include:

-sinus or ear infection
-earwax buildup
-common cold
-temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)

A clogged eardrum can sometimes bulge to the bursting point, leading to a perforated eardrum. This may occur during activities involving rapid pressure changes, such as air travel or scuba diving. A perforated eardrum requires a doctor’s care. This condition typically dissipates within two weeks. Some cases may require an eardrum patch or surgery.

The bottom line

Popping your ears is usually safe and effective, as long as you’re gentle. Ear popping usually works within a few tries. If you have a cold or sinus congestion, a decongestant may also be helpful.