What are earwax blockages?

An earwax blockage is something that occurs when a build-up of earwax (cerumen) occurs within the ears, usually to the point that it cannot easily be cleaned away by the patient. It is normal to have some earwax within the ear – not only does it help to clean the ears out, but it also acts as a lubricant, and can help to protect the ears by trapping dirt and halting bacteria growth. However, earwax blockages can be painful and, if you think that you do have a blockage, it is important that you get seen by an expert straight away.

The symptoms of an earwax blockage

Symptoms may differ depending on the person, however the typical symptoms of an earwax blockage are as follows. The patient may feel like their ears are physically blocked and may have earache. Tinnitus (a buzzing/ringing in the ears) can be common, as is hearing loss and vertigo (feeling nauseous/dizzy). Some people may also get other symptoms, such as a cough.

The causes of an earwax blockage

There are a number of different things that can cause an earwax blockage. The most common cause is when too much earwax is secreted, leading to the ears becoming blocked by the excess cerumen. Whilst a small amount of earwax is expected to enter the ear opening itself, an excessive amount of earwax can lead to the ear canal becoming blocked. Cerumen is usually washed away by the creation of new wax (which is supposed to replace it) – if this doesn’t happen for some reason, then the ear may become blocked.

Blockages can also occur from patients putting objects in their ears or attempting to remove wax by themselves – it’s quite common for people to try and use earbuds in an attempt to clear wax from the ear, but this can actually be quite dangerous, as the wax can get pushed into the opening of the ear itself. Other causes of an earwax build-up include having damaged ear canals, skin conditions, inflammation of the ear canal or even having lots of hair in the ear canals.


It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying to treat an earwax blockage yourself. Eardrops are sometimes used to soften the wax, allowing it to fall out on its own. Medication can also be recommended by your GP or pharmacist.

Some surgeries are able to remove the wax themselves, usually by sucking the wax out (known as microsuction) or by flushing the ears out with water (known as ear irrigation). It is always safer to get a health professional to remove the wax.

If you have any queries about earwax blockages or are experiencing issues with your hearing, contact London Hearing today.