Cerumen Management

Cerumen (earwax) blockage symptoms and removal techniques.

Cerumen, also known as earwax, is naturally produced by the glands in the ears to lubricate the ear canals and keep dust and debris from getting too far down in the ear canal.

Cerumen typically clears itself from the ears, but in some instances can accumulate and cause a blockage.

Symptoms of a cerumen blockage include:

  • Earache
  • Tinnitus (noise in the ear)
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear pressure

If excessive build-up or blockage occurs, it needs to be removed. While there are some home remedies available on the market, attempting to clear one’s own ear at home can be risky.

How not to remove earwax buildup:

Never use a cotton swab!
Over the counter ear drops, bulb syringes, and hydrogen peroxide use: Proceed with caution.
Earwax removal at your audiologist or primary care physician's office: The safest removal method.

Typically, we use one of two methods to remove earwax: curettage or irrigation.

  • A curette is a tool that can be used to reach into the canal to loosen and remove the excessive wax. Most build up of wax can be removed in this manner. We take the utmost care to ensure any removal is done methodically and carefully and most people tolerate this procedure. However, on occasion, the canal can be very sensitive to the touch of the curette and removal of the wax may cause a little bleeding. We will ensure the canal health is maintained throughout the procedure and we will perform otoscopy several times after the removal before you leave the office.
  • If the curette procedure does not remove enough of the ear wax, then we will irrigate the canal with warm water and a syringe that gently forces the water into the canal. This procedure is usually completed more than once but it is typically quite effective.

Most ear canal cleanings are quick, painless, and bring immediate relief. However, there are times when we will need to send you home with ear drops to help soften the wax and have you come back in a few days to a week. At other times, we will refer you to one of our partner ear, nose, and throat physician specialists who have high-powered microscopes and suctioning tools that may be required to remove particularly heavy wax build up.

Do you think you may have a cerumen blockage?

Schedule an appointment

READERS' PICK Best Audiology Practice
“Best Audiologist,” Best of Bethesda Readers Poll, Bethesda Magazine
“Best Audiologist,” Best of Bethesda Readers Poll, Bethesda Magazine