What is Earwax & How Much is Too Much?


So-called due to its waxy texture, earwax is made of dead skin cells and secretions from sweat and oil glands. Its role is to protect skin inside the ear canal, lubricate the skin and act as a natural antimicrobial — so it stops bacterial infections before they can start. When dirt and dead skin get stuck in earwax, the earwax naturally migrates towards the opening of the ear canal to clean the ears.

Earwax is not a sign of poor hygiene and is a natural process, but too much of it could cause a temporary hearing loss. Sound travels as a vibration through the canal to the inner ear; that process is disrupted when there is a blockage. 

How to Safely Clean Earwax

If you feel your ears are stopped up with wax, you can clean them out safely by washing the ear and rinsing it well to flush out loosened wax. Be careful not to remove too much, which can lead to itching. Itchy ears can be a sign of a dry ear canal.

What to Avoid When Cleaning Earwax

Do not use swabs or try ear candling. Both are more dangerous than productive. If hearing doesn’t return after your ears are cleaned, talk to your doctor. A professional ear exam and hearing test can pinpoint the problem.


About the author

Lauren A. Matsko, Au.D., MPH, CCC-A

Dr. Lauren Matsko received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Virginia Tech, her Master’s degree in Public Health from Eastern Virginia Medical School, and her Doctorate in Audiology from Salus University in Philadelphia. Dr. Matsko is a member of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology. Lauren is a recent addition to Maico after relocating from a small non-profit speech and hearing clinic in southwest Virginia. Her love of audiology is evident in the enthusiasm she brings to every appointment. She enjoys spending her spare time traveling, hiking, and antiquing with her boyfriend and spoiling their dog, Roxy.

Health JournalSubscribe to our Thursday “Healthy Reads!”