Why do my ears keep getting blocked

When the ear closes: earwax plugs

How does an earwax plug develop?

An ear wax plug occurs when ear wax collects in the ear canal and blocks it. As a result, it hinders the transmission of sound to the eardrum, making those affected hear more difficult. Other symptoms are, for example, a dull or uncomfortable feeling in the ear as well as pain or annoying noises in the affected ear.

Ear wax protects and cleanses the ear

The ear wax is the yellowish secretion of the sebum glands and hair follicles of the external auditory canal and serves as a protective film for the sensitive skin in the auditory canal. For example, it has an antibacterial effect and protects against drying out and water penetration. The ear wax also helps the ear to clean itself: it envelops dirt or dust particles that have got into the ear and transports them to the auricle with the help of the hairs of the ear.

What to do if you have an earwax plug

  • You can try gently softening the earwax plug with lukewarm salt water and rinsing it out. But never try to remove an ear wax plug yourself with a spoon, a pointed object or a pair of tweezers! You could injure the eardrum and ear canal in the process. As a result, the external auditory canal can become painfully inflamed. Ear candles or oral irrigators are also unsuitable for cleaning the ear canal.
  • If it is not possible to dissolve the plug with lukewarm water, consult your doctor or ENT doctor. He can use an otoscope to examine the eardrum for damage or infections and detect the earwax plug. The ear doctor usually rinses the ear with an ear syringe and removes the wax plug from the ear canal. A targeted jet of water should loosen the plug. If it is too tight, the doctor will soften it with ear drops containing, for example, glycerol, before rinsing it again. With a visual inspection of the ear microscope, the doctor can peel out or suck out the wax with special devices such as ear curettes.

Once the wax plug is removed, the symptoms usually improve immediately.

Prevention tips

To prevent wax plugs, you can run some water in your ears while you shower. This is how to keep the ear wax moist and pliable. Special ear sprays from the pharmacy also have a similarly gentle effect. Experts do not recommend cleaning the ear with cotton swabs, for example, because there is a risk that the wax will be pushed in front of the eardrum, where it can dry out. You could also injure the ear canal with it.

If you have had wax plugs before or if you wear a hearing aid, you should have your ears checked and cleaned regularly by an ear, nose and throat specialist.