Reopening All Hearing Services on June 8th
June 3, 2020
hearing aid follow up appointment
Hearing Aids Work… When Properly Selected and Fitted!
August 17, 2020

Clogged ears?

Oh no. It’s that feeling. Is there something in my ear? Ok, there’s definitely something in my ear. It just feels plugged. I have absolutely no idea what the lady taking my coffee order just said. Smile and nod. Whenever I talk it just sounds echoey anyway. 

By the afternoon, the idea of grabbing the nearest small pointy object and shoving it down my ear canal for the sweet relief of this pressure is tantalizing. I know that isn’t safe. How can I get this stuff out?!?


Does any of this sound familiar? You’re not alone. The plugged, annoying, echoey feeling and accompanying hearing loss could mean that you have accumulated a significant amount of ear wax, or what we call “cerumen.” Now, cerumen is natural and serves the important function of moistening the ear, while carrying out any debris that settles inside. Fun fact: it’s also poisonous to insects, so hey, that’s awesome too. When cerumen is doing the right things, it sheds in a counter-clockwise manner and eventually comes out on its own. Usually we don’t notice when that wax comes out, though sometimes people find good size chunks inside the bowl of their ear or on their pillow. It happens!


Alright, yeah, yeah, but whatever is in my ear doesn’t feel good or natural or awesome. Help!


When cerumen gets out of hand, it can create a lot of discomfort. Instead of filtering out, it builds. And builds. And builds. Until you’re left with essentially an ear plug that blocks sound from getting into your ear. It can happen in one or both of your ears. Patients often ask the question, “But why me?!” Honestly, some people just have wax-ey ears. If it’s only happening on one-side, it might be that the ear canal on that side is slightly curvier, trapping wax more easily. Hearing aid users often accumulate more wax than non-users because the ear is naturally trying to lubricate the canal. This also occurs because when you have something in your ears all the time, you don’t give your canals enough time to naturally filter. The same could plausibly be said of frequent earphone users. If you wear earphones 90% of your day–at a safe volume– you’re blocking up your ears and not letting that wax get out. 


But again: HELP.


Help is here! At Chicago Hearing Care we use suction to remove that pesky cerumen and get you feeling back to normal again. First, we look in your ears to confirm the accumulation, and then we carefully remove the cerumen. Our patients are told that this procedure should not be painful at all. We ensure their comfort throughout the process. Sometimes the process is quick, but occasionally we have to remove the cerumen piece by piece which can take a while. After we are satisfied that your ears are free of significant cerumen, we screen your hearing. The screening tells us if the hearing loss you noticed was a result of the cerumen, or if you possibly have a hearing loss not caused by the cerumen that we need to investigate further. If you’ve seen Dr. Pimple Popper’s videos, you know how satisfying this removal process can be. Patients will come into our office incredibly eager for help, and when it’s all over their relief is palpable.


Awesome. Googling directions right now.


A few cautions: 

  • If you note that your hearing has significantly and rapidly changed in one or both ears, seek medical attention right away as this could be a condition called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (S-SNHL).  
  • If you believe you do have wax, please, please, please don’t put anything in your ears. It only makes things worse, and we can usually tell from the ear canal walls if you have been using Q-tips. 
  • Just say no to ear-candling. If it involves fire, it shouldn’t be going near your head.
  • As tempting as it is, do not purchase tools online to do this procedure on your own. If you have these symptoms of feeling plugged up, you should be evaluated by a professional to determine what your condition is and how best to manage it. 


Caylin McCallick, Graduate Student, AuD Program, Northwestern University