Impacted earwax happens when there is a build-up of earwax in the ear, resulting in a complete blockage. It can be caused by a number of things.
Symptoms can include:
Earache or pain
Whistling from your hearing aid
A blocked or muffled feeling in the ear/s
Our ears are very efficient at cleaning themselves. Ironically, it's usually when people try to clean their ears that impacted earwax is caused. Using things like cotton buds, your finger, or other objects to try to remove earwax can actually push it further into the ear, where it can build up and become impacted.
Other causes can include wearing earplugs or hearing aids, narrow or hairy ears and natural ageing.
Visual inspection (otoscopy) by an audiology or medical professional can determine if you have an earwax blockage. A test called tympanometry, which can be performed by an audiology professional, can also determine if the earwax is completely or only partially blocking your ear. A hearing test will also determine if the wax is causing any hearing difficulties.
Treatment and prevention
You may be advised to use wax drops (available from pharmacies) before seeing a medical professional to have the wax removed. Common wax removal methods are suction and syringing.
You may not be able to prevent earwax build-up but it’s advisable to have your ears checked regularly to see if you need the wax removed to prevent it from becoming impacted and blocking your ears.