Medical Q&As

Earwax - excessive amounts?

My daughter always seems to have a lot of wax in her ears. Is this normal?

It is important to appreciate that earwax is not dirt and that it has an important protective function. Earwax protects and waterproofs the skin in the outer ear and also helps to prevent dirt and dust particles from reaching the delicate eardrum. If earwax were absent it is likely that the person could quickly develop very dry itchy ears. Tiny glands in the skin of the outer ear secrete the wax and some people simply produce more wax than others. Overproduction of earwax is not an indicator of underlying problems but it can be a nuisance and give rise to temporary deafness due to blockage of the external ear. This can be a significant problem in the case of the elderly where deafness is often attributed to the ageing process. In that scenario clearing the ears of wax can result in a significant improvement in hearing. It is generally recommended that people refrain from using cotton buds in their ears because this can have the effect of pushing some of the wax deeper into the ear, which may then press against the eardrum thereby reducing the hearing even further. There are several OTC (over the counter) products available that help to soften and dislodge wax that is not removed by cleaning with a clean damp cloth. If such products did not remedy the situation it would be possible to attend your GP in order for the GP or practice nurse to syringe or wash out your ears. It is advisable that a wax-softening drop be used for a few days before attending the practice for such syringing. Sometimes earwax can assume the consistency of candle grease and just won’t budge from the ear unless a softener has not been used in advance of syringing. You do not indicate your daughter’s age but as a general rule syringing is not performed on young children. Wax softeners or peroxide drops would b the preferred option in that scenario.