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Hearing Blog

Could it just be earwax

August 14, 2023

Hearing aids break down for many reasons.  They sit in warm moist environments for hours on end.  Electronics really don’t like humidity.  One of the most obvious reasons for a hearing aid to stop working appropriately or die completely is ear wax.  I will get patients who will come in and state the aids simply are right.  When we show them the wax that we get out of the hearing aids or out of their ears they just can’t believe it.  The wax may be in both places; or maybe just in the ear and is blocking the transmission of sound.  Ear wax can get thick like mud or hard like concrete…and you can’t hear very well through either of these.  It can be a slow death of your hearing capabilities or sudden.  Daily cleaning of the hearing aid by the patient is important…so if professional cleaning of the hearing aids and of your ears. 

Our ears are designed to produce ear wax and oil.  Ear wax, also known as Cerumen, develops in the ear canal because there are glands that produce it.  There are also glands that produce oil.

Some people produce more ear wax than others.  Some people will produce more oil than wax. 

As the glands work producing the wax and oil, they will start to slowly migrate out of the is a very SLOW continual movement.  If a person’s glands secrete more cerumen than oil, then the cerumen/wax will be stickier and not move out as quickly.  On the other hand, if there is a lot of oil production then that will help the migration of the wax to exit the ear canal more rapidly.  

Hearing instruments will stall the process of the migration.  After all, if you wear your hearing instruments ALL DAY like you should then you will probably build up a little more wax than someone who doesn’t wear their hearing instruments.  This is normal. 

Hearing instruments that have the little rubber ear buds may not appear to the naked eye to have a lot of ear wax on them.... but when we take them apart to clean and vacuum them ... they can indeed be loaded with ear wax.   Custom products are interesting.  While we think that because there is more plastic in the ear blocking the ear canal there would be more wax stuck.  That is not always the case.  Because of the custom snug fit the ear wax is often removed as the hearing aid is taken out each day. 

There are many variables.  Are the ear canals round and straight.  (Thus, the wax will move out quicker).  If the canals are skinny and curvy then the wax has a harder path.  If our ear canals point upward as opposed to downward it will make a difference.  

Ear wax in the ear canal is a good thing... if you don’t wear hearing instruments.  A little won’t hurt...unless it is positioned and blocking the sound pathway to the eardrum.  So, what should you do to keep your ear canal “hearing instrument ready?” 

Your Hearing Health Care Provider should determine over time how much ear wax you are producing and what is an appropriate time for your ear cleaning appointments.   Our office will pre-set your cleaning appointment of your hearing instruments based on the production and accumulation of the wax.  Normally, we set most people for 6-month cleanings.  However, we have some patients that come in every month because they get such a wax build up.  The appointments are personalized so that we are getting the ear wax out before it is causing your hearing instruments to breakdown or block up. 

Cleaning appointments are important.  Not only are your ears inspected for wax.  We are also looking for growths such as certain types of cancer, development of eczema, and sore spots that the hearing instruments may cause and infection.   Along with the ear inspection and cleaning your hearing instruments are then analyzed and cleaned.  Worn parts are replaced.  Updates are installed.  Many “out of site” details are performed to ensure your best hearing. 

So... make it a point to make sure your Hearing Health Care Provider is indeed providing the appropriate care for your hearing instruments and your ears too!  To Hear Better Is To Live Better!!



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