Cerumen Impaction

The structures of the external ear canal secrete a waxy substance known as cerumen. Excess cerumen can build up in the ear canal, causing a condition known as cerumen impaction. Cerumen impaction can cause ear pain as well as disrupt the function of the ear.

The rate of cerumen production differs for each individual. For certain individuals, the configuration of one's ear canal may cause him or her to have a decreased ability to naturally remove cerumen. It is important to note that removing cerumen as a part of normal hygiene is not necessary, and the use of swabs in the ear canal is not recommended.

SYMPTOMS

  • Diminished hearing.

  • Ear drainage.

  • Ear pain.

  • Ear itch.

CAUSES

Excessive cerumen production.

RISK INCREASES WITH:

  • Frequent use of swabs to clean ears.

  • Narrow ear canals.

  • Eczema (a skin condition).

  • Dehydration.

PREVENTION

  • Do Not insert objects into the ear, even with the intent of cleaning the ear.

  • Maintain hydration.

  • Control eczema if present.

TREATMENT

Maintaining preventative measures is the best way to treat cerumen impaction. If symptoms of cerumen impaction develop the first step is to use over-the-counter or prescription ear drops that are intended to soften the cerumen. If the cerumen does not clear, then visit your caregiver to have the cerumen removed. The most common method for cerumen removal is through irrigation with warm water. Although, some caregivers use ear curettes and other instruments to remove the cerumen physically. In the most severe cases, cerumen may be removed surgically.