A to Z: Impacted Cerumen

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A to Z: Impacted Cerumen

May also be called: Ear Impaction; Ear Blockage; Earwax Blockage; Impacted Earwax; Cerumen Inspissatum

Impacted cerumen (se-ROO-men) is when earwax (cerumen) builds up in the ear and blocks the ear canal; it can cause temporary hearing loss and ear pain.

More to Know

Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal, which leads from the outer ear to the eardrum. Earwax helps protect the ear by trapping dust and other foreign particles that could damage the ear. Normally, earwax moves toward the opening of the ear and falls out or is washed away, but some people's ears produce too much wax. The extra wax can build up and harden in the ear canal and become difficult to remove. Earwax also can become impacted when, during ear cleaning, the wax is accidentally pushed deeper into the ear canal.

Impacted cerumen can cause earaches, temporary hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), coughing, or a feeling that the ear is full or plugged. It also can increase the risk of an outer ear infection. Impacted cerumen should be removed by a doctor to help avoid damaging the ear. Treatment options include removing the earwax with instruments or by flushing the ear canal with special liquids.

Keep in Mind

Impacted cerumen may improve on its own, but treatment by a doctor is generally safe and effective. Hearing usually returns completely after the impacted earwax is removed. Trying to remove impacted cerumen at home with a cotton swab or by ear candling is not recommended.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.
Web SiteAmerican Academy of Audiology The American Academy of Audiology, the world's largest professional organization of, by and for more than 10,000 audiologists, is dedicated to providing quality hearing care to the public.


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Dealing With Earwax Earwax helps protect the eardrum and fight infection. Parents shouldn't attempt to remove earwax at home, as doing so risks damage to the ear canal and, possibly, a child's hearing.
Ears Hearing may be the ears' main job, but it's not all they do. Learn all about the ears in this Body Basics article.
Ear Injuries Ear injuries not only can affect a child's hearing, but sense of balance, too. That's because our ears also help keep us steady on our feet.
Is Earwax Removal Safe? Is it OK to use cotton swabs to remove earwax?




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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