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Hearing Blog

Get your earwax checked

February 16, 2024

Monday through Friday while helping patients to hear better there is one constant service that takes place.   One thing that has to be done to every hearing instrument that comes through the door.  One thing that needs to be checked with every patient. 

Ear wax. While patients attempts to clean their instruments , there is just so much they can do.  With professional equipment and professional expertise your hearing instruments are analyzed, worn parts replaced, and contacts adjusted.  They are taken apart and cleaned to remove moisture, dirt, grime, skin, salt, oil and wax. 

So, your hearing instrument is cleaned and running to your prescription.  Now...On to your EARS!   If you have bright shiny clean hearing instruments it does you NO good if you put them into wax plastered ears. 

It is important that when you get your hearing instruments cleaned that you have your Hearing Health Care Provider inspect your ears for ear wax.  If there is ear wax that is detrimental to the sound reproduction from your hearing instrument then it should be removed.  

How much wax is too much?  We remove wax if it blocks the ear or has a build up that can get into the hearing instruments.   While wax normally migrates out of ear canal, the presence of a hearing instrument acts as a barrier and thus ear wax can build up.   Ear wax or Cerumen is a natural protectant of the ear canal keeping out dirt and bugs.  Keep in mind that if you wear your hearing instruments 12-16 hours a day...they too will block dirt and bugs from getting in.   When wax is removed we are careful not to damage the tender skin and blood vessels that are in the ear canal.   

How is the ear wax professionally removed?  Several ways: 

  1. Normally, the professional can use a video otoscope with a special curette attachment
  2. A handheld otoscope with a special curette
  3. A swab
  4. A vacuum
  5. A flushing machine

Patient medical history along with specific wax issue will dictate which method of wax removal is used.   For example; if the wax is soft and within the first bend of the ear canal, usually about 1/2” in then either a curette or swab will be sufficient for the professional to remove the wax.  If the wax is  dark in color, deep in the ear, or stuck to the ear canal then it may be necessary to flush the  ear.  There are hundreds of little blood vessels in the ear canal.  If the patient is on a blood thinner...especially Coumadin/Warfarin...special precautions must be followed with the removal of ear wax.  Softening drops may need to be administered.  Patients on this type of blood thinner will bleed very easy.  In fact, if a small piece of hard dried wax is pulled out and it peels the skin then the ear can bleed like a river.  Literally, a speck of dried wax like the size of the head of a straight pin can cause major bleeding issue.  The professional will determine if vacuuming or flushing is the best option.  If the wax is very deep in the ear or stuck to the eardrum then flushing may be the best option and the most comfortable to the patient.  Patients with tubes or holes in the ear drums can’t be flushed.  It is especially important that people on blood thinners NOT put anything in their ears.   Professional Hearing Health Care Providers have proper equipment and expertise to remove the ear wax.  In the event that a bleed occurs then the professional has the supplies and tools to stop it and minimize any type of scab.  After all; you don’t want a big thick scab of dried blood in your ear... that is worse than a big black clump of wax!   

Wax removal is a necessary skill for your Hearing Health Care Professional.  Patients should have their professional inspect their ears at least twice a year.  Depending upon the amount of wax that has to be removed then that schedule may need to be adapted.  Your ear wax should be removed BEFORE it builds up and causes your hearing aids not be function properly. 

So remember, when you go to your scheduled appointment to get your hearing instrument cleaned and checked make sure your Hearing Health Care Provider inspects your ears for wax and removes it if necessary.  To Hear Better Is To Live Better!


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