Good morning! You wake up bright and refreshed, feeling great, ready to tackle another day. You jump out of bed and head to the bathroom to begin your basic business, and that's when you notice it. You're walking across the hardwood floor, or even the carpet, but you can't hear your footsteps. You turn and glance back toward your bed and your significant other is looking at you, his or her lips moving, but you can barely hear what they are saying. Huh? Welcome to another early-morning tussle with that supremely annoying nuisance known as a blocked ear. During the night, at least one of your ears has filled itself with ear wax, known as gunk, and it can be real stubborn when you try getting it out. No question, this puts a serious damper on your quality of life for the moment, even beyond the obvious reduction in hearing. Some of us get a clogged ear, or ears, more than others (the author of this blog included), and it seems to occur as much in allergy season as it does out of it. Aaarrrgghhh! Here's the funny thing about ear-clogging wax (even if no one is laughing)—it's only your ear trying to be helpful, producing ear wax (which is produced by glands in the ear canal), also known as "cerumen," to help protect your ear from debris, such as dirt and dust, thus aiding in keeping ears clean and lubed. According to webmd.com, blockage occurs when ear wax accumulates in your ear canal or becomes hardened and therefore can't be washed away naturally. Sometimes the blockage is self-induced: when people use a cotton swab or Q-tip to clean out wax from their ear, even if the ear isn't clogged, the swabbing action can push the gunk further inside the canal and create a blocked situation. Common signs of earwax blockage, says healthline.com, are a feeling of fullness in your ear, an earache or ringing, buzzing or other off noises in your ear (I've even heard clicking).
Some Do's and Don'ts to Help With Ear Wax
- Chewing gum seems because frequent jaw movements are effective in moving ear wax out of the way.
- Try softening and removing earwax with mineral oil or baby oil.
- Avoid sticking cotton swabs into the ear canal. It can worsen the clogging, or worse yet damage your eardrum if pushed in too far and hard.
- Over-the-counter earwax removal kits, usually involving wax-softening drops, are a good option.
- Irrigate the ear with a rubber ball syringe and warm water.
- If none of these measures work, it's time to visit you primary-care physician. He or she might have equipment, such as a suction device (don't try this at home) to help in earwax removal, or they might diagnose an issue other than earwax.
- The doctor could also prescribe a type of eardrop more potent than those found over the counter.