Earwax is something that everyone deals with throughout their lives. While it may be gross at times, earwax actually plays an important role in keeping our ears healthy. But when greasy earwax builds up too much, it can become a serious problem. And recent data shows that earwax buildup is causing significant health issues in the elderly.
Already, about 20% of Americans say they experience some level of hearing loss. And an excessive amount of earwax can lead to serious ear issues, like hearing loss. But among senior citizens, earwax is forming so quickly that it can cause several issues, including ending up actually blocking the ear canal completely, which is called impaction. According to the 2017 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s guidelines for removing impacted earwax, up to two-thirds of nursing home residents may suffer from this condition.
Jackie Clark, a board-certified audiologist who is president of the American Academy of Audiology, explained, “The excessive amount of earwax can cause hearing loss or ringing in your ears. Some people experience vertigo, which increases the risk of falling. Right now, we see some correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline.”
Problems caused by earwax are common among elderly people because removing earwax is something that just gets forgotten about. Fortunately, being around people who can help with tasks like these can be beneficial for senior citizens. With about 40% of assisted living facilities providing skilled care for residents, facility staff can make sure earwax buildup doesn’t cause more serious issues.
But what are the signs that earwax is building up too much in your ears? Well, impaction may cause dizziness, ringing in the ears, pain, itching, or even drainage. And if there is any sign of decreased hearing abilities, earwax buildup may be to blame.
The amount of earwax produced can vary from person to person, which can make it even more difficult to tell when there’s too much. But one thing that can actually cause more earwax buildup is using Q-tips or other tools to try to clean out the wax. While many people find using Q-tips to be quite satisfying in removing the earwax, doing this can have the opposite effect and signal the ear that more wax needs to be produced.
So while there’s no true way to prevent your ears from producing too much wax, it’s important to speak with a doctor or audiologist about any ear concerns. Catching problems early on is key to making sure your hearing is as good as can be.