Is Earwax a Sign of Infection?

Earwax may sound disgusting, but it serves a number of essential purposes. It helps clean out your ear canal and wash away dead skin cells while acting as a protective lubricant to safeguard your eardrum.

No matter the method you use to remove earwax from the ear canal, such as cotton swabs or fingers inserted directly, attempt at extracting it should never result in pushing more into it and leading to buildups of impacted wax in your ears.

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Earwax is a natural substance that serves two main purposes in protecting ear canal skin: lubricating it and blocking germs from invading. Furthermore, its antimicrobial properties help stop infections before they start. But too much earwax accumulation can pose problems of its own.

Most people produce small amounts of earwax that regularly makes its way out through the ear opening and into waterways, where it’s washed away or falls out naturally. If earwax remains trapped inside your ear canal for too long, however, it can build up and form blockages within it – creating discomfort in hearing.

Your body creates earwax because it recognizes that maintaining healthy ears requires keeping the skin lubricated and protected against germs. The ceruminous and sebaceous glands produce liquid and oil which combine with dead skin cells to form earwax, which then moves along when jaw movements or the eardrum beats, eventually draining out through an opening at your ear canal opening.

No one knows for certain why earwax clumps together and blocks up an ear, though conditions such as eczema could contribute. People born with narrow ear canals or suffering an infection could produce harder earwax that is more likely to block their ears.

Though earwax can be beneficial, too much can lead to an infection. You can help avoid further buildup by not trying to remove it with cotton swabs or similar objects that you insert directly into your ears. If concerned, see your physician who may use an otoscope (light-emitting instrument) to inspect for blockages before providing advice on how best to safely remove any buildup of earwax buildup.

Your doctor can usually use water or saline solution to flush out your ears while you sit in their office, without it becoming painful or taking more than a few minutes. However, if necessary they may also add softening drops before beginning.


The ear canal provides its own natural process for dissolving earwax that prevents it from building up and blocking the eardrum. Regular movements of jaw and ears, and inner ear swishes during sleeping or talking help move it outward to where it flakes off or is rinsed away with showering or swimming. Removing excess earwax yourself could result in painful infections or cause other health problems.

Over-the-counter eardrops may help soften and dissolve earwax more easily, whether that’s done through water-based drops that break up wax or oil-based ones that lubricate it. Be sure to follow package directions for optimal results; otherwise specialized tools from your doctor might be needed for removal of your earwax.

Ear infections typically manifest themselves with pain, itching and the sensation that something is stuck in the ear, dizziness and vertigo may also result. Ear infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi; most commonly they result from injury to the eardrum itself. They can be avoided by refraining from trying to remove earwax using cotton swabs, paper towels or any other objects and children should never attempt cleaning their ears themselves as this may damage their eardrums further.

An ear infection may also result from foreign objects entering the ear canal, such as fingers, bobby pins or paper clips. Such objects can damage the canal and puncture it with tiny cuts that cause small scratches in the eardrum, leading to blood seeping out that eventually clot. A doctor should always examine a potential injury in your ear canal.

Health care professionals typically employ lighted scopes to safely extract earwax. In rare instances, however, doctors may need to manually scrape or suction out the wax from the canal – this process usually occurs within the office and is generally safe if your eardrum has not ruptured.


If earwax isn’t causing any symptoms, there may be no need to remove it. Earwax acts as a natural defense against bacteria, mold and dust entering the ear canal; its production depends partly on skin cells from within its vicinity which renew every so often and become trapped inside by an eardrum and mixed together with other materials to form earwax.

Health care professionals can demonstrate safe methods for you to reduce earwax buildup at home, such as using ear drops or mineral oil. Do not attempt to manually extract hardened earwax yourself using anything such as fingers, cotton swabs or bobby pins that could poke into the ear canal because this could push further earwax deep into its canal and potentially cause further damage to it.

Frequent ear infections can prompt your body to produce excessive amounts of earwax in an effort to protect the eardrum from further infections and pressure. People who tend to produce dry, flaky skin can also be susceptible to blockages from this excess production of wax.

Water and earwax often go hand in hand: when swimming or showering, your ears will likely flush themselves of any excess earwax with the flow of water. While in rare instances it may clog your ear canal and cause hearing loss, this usually indicates an ear infection rather than just plain wax accumulation.

If you suffer from persistent earwax buildup, your doctor may suggest a medical procedure to extract it. A thin tube is inserted into the ear canal through which wax can be broken up and dispersed without pain or discomfort. These procedures typically occur at doctor offices.

Your child can provide invaluable help in the removal of earwax at home. If medical procedures don’t seem effective enough, try administering three percent hydrogen peroxide to each ear with your head tilted slightly sideways and gently tilted. The peroxide will dissolve the wax and allow it to drain; repeat daily until all traces have vanished from your ears.


Earwax is produced to keep ears clean and protect eardrums from damage, but too much wax build-up can lead to hearing loss and infections in some people. If concerned, seeing your doctor might help remove excess buildup using special instruments called curettes or suction – they may also offer tips on preventing future buildup of earwax buildup.

Some individuals are more susceptible than others to having excess earwax that’s difficult for them to manage on their own, which may make ear infections more likely. If this is a chronic issue for you, or an infant/child’s issue, visiting a physician for medication to soften and loosen the wax may help. If this has been your experience too, their may be solutions available such as prescribing medicated drops that soften it so it falls out more easily.

Other measures to stop earwax build-up include not wearing headphones or inserting cotton swabs into your ears – doing either could push earwax into your ear canal and lead to infection. It’s also wise not to attempt removing it yourself by poking anything, even with towels, into the canal; doing this could puncture or tear your eardrum, leading to further complications and infections.

To help unclog earwax naturally, place several drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, or over-the-counter earwax softeners into each ear canal with your head tilted sideways and wait a few minutes until fluid drains out of the ear canal. If your child suffers from frequent earwax build-up, have him or her lie on his or her back with head tilted sideways for several minutes twice daily to allow gravity to pull earwax down and out. If this method doesn’t work out then consult your physician about prescription drops or safe home removal techniques such as safe home removal techniques (Never use commercial earwax removal devices like Wax-Vac or suction syringe).