North Carolina Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat

  • Cary, NC 919-859-6771
  • Roxboro, NC 336-597-2826
  • Chapel Hill, NC 919-942-7278
  • South Durham, NC 919-287-3443
  • North Durham, NC 919-595-2000

Earwax Removal

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 a blockage occurs, it may need to be removed. 

How Not to Remove Earwax Buildup

People commonly use cotton swabs to try and remove earwax or dislodge a blockage. However, this can sometimes cause more problems as cotton swabs may push the blockage further down into the ear canal, risking even more damage to the ear.

Cotton swabs themselves can also be accidentally inserted too far into the ear canal and can potentially damage your ear, including the possibility of rupturing your eardrum.

Physicians generally agree that cotton swabs are a bad idea for removing earwax and should only be used on the outer portions of your ear. You should never insert cotton swabs or any small object into your ear canal.

Removal at Your Doctor's Office

If the earwax blockage is more significant, it may need to be removed in your doctor's office. Doctors typically use one of two methods to remove earwax: irrigation or curettage.

Irrigation is the most common method your doctor will use to remove blockages. Unlike at-home earwax removal kits, your doctor may use stronger earwax removal medications in conjunction with irrigation. Carbamide peroxide is typically the main ingredient in these medications.

The less common method is curettage, which involves the use of a curette. A curette is a long, curved tool that is used along with suction to gently scrape cerumen from the ear canal, removing the blockage.

If you experience pain or discomfort as a result of earwax, or suspect you have a blockage, it's important that you see your doctor as soon as possible to address the issue. Removing earwax doesn't have to be painful and should bring you relief.