Wax blockage

  • Alternative Names

    Ear impaction; Cerumen impaction; Ear blockage; Ear wax


    Most cases of ear wax blockage can be treated at home. The following can be used to soften the wax in the ear:

    • Baby oil
    • Commercial drops
    • Glycerin
    • Mineral oil

    Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may help remove the wax.

    Another method of removing wax is called irrigation. Use body-temperature water (cooler or warmer water may cause brief but severe dizziness or vertigo). With your head upright, straighten the ear canal by holding the outside ear and gently pulling upward. Use a syringe to gently direct a small stream of water against the ear canal wall next to the wax plug. Tip your head to allow the water to drain. You may need to repeat irrigation several times.

    Never irrigate the ear if the eardrum may not be intact. Irrigation with a ruptured eardrum may cause ear infection or acoustic trauma. Do not irrigate the ear with a jet irrigator designed for cleaning teeth (such as a WaterPik) because the force of the irrigation may damage the eardrum.

    After the wax is removed, dry the ear thoroughly. You may use a few drops of alcohol in the ear or a hair dryer set on low to help dry the ear.

    If you cannot remove the wax plug or irrigation causes discomfort, consult a health care provider, who may remove the wax by:

    • Repeating the irrigation attempts
    • Suctioning the ear canal
    • Using a small device called a curette

    Occasionally, the wax must be removed with the help of a microscope.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Wax blockage of the ear usually responds well to removal attempts. However, it may happen again in the future. Hearing loss is usually temporary. Hearing usually returns completely after the blockage is removed.

    • External ear infection (otitis externa)

    Calling your health care provider

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your ears are blocked with wax and you are unable to remove the wax.

    Also call if you have an ear wax blockage and you develop new symptoms, especially:

    • Drainage from the ear
    • Fever
    • Persistent hearing loss
    • Persistent or severe ear pain