Cerumen, colloquially called earwax, is physiologically formed by the sebaceous glands and the cerumial glands in the external auditory canal. The secretion from these glands is then mixed with shed cells, dust, hairs and dyes. The cerumen protects the auditory canal from infections because it contains antibacterial and antimycotic (mycosis = fungal infection) components. Its unpleasant odor deters insects from entering the ear canal.
Overproduction and/ or reduced drainage or swelling of earwax after water has entered the ear canal (e.g. when bathing) can lead to a partial or complete occlusion of the external ear canal by a plug of earwax. Excessive cleaning of the ears with cotton swabs, earplugs, or hearing aids can encourage cerumen to compress, resulting in the formation of an occlusive plug. The sudden onset of hearing loss on the affected side can be accompanied by a feeling of pressure and pain in the ear.
In this case, you should absolutely avoid to trying to free the ear from the plug with a cotton swab. The cotton swab is so large that it usually only pushes the plug further into the ear, making professional removal more difficult. Ear drops from the pharmacy should not be used without consulting a doctor.
The hearing loss is reversible. The treatment of choice is professional ear rinsing by a doctor. Before flushing, acute infection and inflammation or previous injury to the eardrum must be ruled out.
In some cases, mechanical mobilization or removal of the plug is required. Sometimes the cerumen cannot be removed in one rinsing process and requires pre-treatment with cerumen-softening ear drops. In our clinic we use a particularly effective but gentle and painless rinsing process with a modern rinsing device, which distributes the water jet three-dimensionally and without pressure in the ear canal and circles the cerumen.
The procedure is suitable for adults and children in the case of foreign bodies in the external auditory canal.