Earwax is a substance that you are likely already familiar with. It is a natural substance produced by glands in the ear canals and if it accumulates, it can feel uncomfortable. Symptoms of impacted earwax include tinnitus (a ringing noise in the ears), hearing challenges, discomfort, and infection. People often use a cotton swab in attempts to remove earwax, but this is a potentially dangerous method that experts will never recommend. Cotton swabs can easily push wax further into the ear and even cause injury. The most safe way to remove earwax is by having a specialist facilitate the process.  At Southwest Florida Center for Hearing and Balance, we provide a range of audiological services including earwax removal!

Man wondering about the earwax in his ear

What is Earwax?

Earwax, technically known as cerumen,  is a sticky substance, but is not a wax at all. It is actually a mixture of dead skin cells, secretions from glands in the ear, hair, as well as other substances that can build up in the ear. You may be surprised to learn that earwax actually plays an important role in the ear’s ecosystem. Earwax contains antibacterial properties that contribute to keeping the ears healthy.  It helps trap bacteria and dirt which prevents these harmful substances from reaching the middle and inner ear and causing infection. Earwax also helps keep the ears moisturized, protecting against dryness which can cause irritation. 

Cerumen has a natural way of exiting the ears. This happens organically through jaw movements – produced by eating, talking, laughing etc. – which helps cerumen move towards the opening of the ear, eventually flaking off.  Sometimes this doesn’t happen and earwax can accumulate in the ear canal; this is known as impacted earwax.

Impacted Earwax: Causes & Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 12 million people seek medical care for impacted earwax and over 8 million removal procedures are performed annually. Remember, it is totally normal and natural to have some cerumen in the ear canals! But if wax becomes dried it may not naturally exit the ear canal.  Additionally, some individuals have cerumen glands that produce excess wax which can lead to accumulation. Some other factors that can lead to an accumulation of earwax in the ears include: 

  • Ear infections
  • Bony growths in the ear canal
  • Autoimmune conditions 
  • Narrow/small ear canals

Impacted earwax can produce a range of unpleasant symptoms including the following: 

  • Pain, discomfort
  • Irritation, tenderness
  • Discharge from the ears
  • Ear pressure and fullness
  • Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing like noise in the impacted ear
  • Difficulty hearing, experiencing communication challenges

If excessive earwax is not removed and remains in the ear canals, these symptoms can worsen and contribute to infection and hearing loss. Safely removing earwax is important to maintaining ear and hearing health. A great way to do this is by consulting with a specialist who is trained in removing cerumen safely and effectively. 

Earwax Removal

Earwax removal services are commonly accessed to comprehensively and safely remove earwax. Removal is necessary for our patients who experience impacted cerumen and/or those who have wax that is obstructing visualization of the eardrum.  At Southwest Florida Center for Hearing and Balance we provide quality care and are committed to tending to all of your ear needs. Our earwax removal services provide a thorough cleaning that carefully removes earwax. 

We start the earwax removal process by carefully examining your ear canals with a lighted otoscope. Using an otoscope allows us to effectively visualize the ears and assess where cerumen has accumulated and if it needs to be removed. There are a few approaches that are used to remove earwax, including: 


This removal strategy involves using a water or saline solution to flush out earwax. Using a syringe-like tool, water or a saline solution is inserted into the ears and earwax is essentially flushed out of the ear. This is commonly done at primary physician offices. 


A curette is a tool that is curved and designed for cleaning the ear. This tool is used to carefully scoop earwax out of the ear canal. 


We use a gentle vacuum that removes softened earwax safely without any flushing or abrasion to the skin of the ear canal. 

Depending on how much earwax is in the ear, we may need to repeat these processes to thoroughly clean the ears. Afterwards, we’ll examine the ear canal to ensure that we have clear visualization of the eardrum.  It’s important to note that some individuals will never need to have their ears cleaned of cerumen, while others may need to have this procedure done regularly.  Every individual is different!  Always start your journey into hearing healthcare with an expert who can give you education and guidance, like our two Doctors of Audiology at Southwest Florida Center for Hearing and Balance!