Inner Ear Problems? From Ear Wax?

Health Care

How Can I Get Rid Of Stubborn Ear Wax?

In my experience, there are two types of parents in the world: those that could care less about their kid’s waxy ears, and those that despise ear wax and perseverate on the sticky stuff. I am asked at least once a day how to get rid of it and whether ear wax causes inner ear problems, or is the source of their child’s ear pain.

Ear Wax

Ear Wax in the Inner Ear Canal, courtesy of

What is ear wax?

Ear wax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Its function: to trap dust and small particles from reaching and damaging the eardrum. This wax typically dries out and falls out of the ear on its own, with no help from you. The amount of ear wax is genetically determined with some people making lots and some less.

Can Ear Wax Cause Inner Ear Problems?

Most of the time ear wax causes no problems at all. Occasionally a blockage can occur, or impaction, when the wax gets pushed deep within the ear canal. Ear wax blockage occurs in 8-10% of kids!

Why do kids get impacted ear wax? Most commonly it is from the use of cotton swabs that can remove superficial ear wax but pushes wax deeper into the ear canal.

Symptoms of an ear wax impaction:

  • Ear pain
  • Blocked ear feeling, like you are under water.
  • Decreased hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Itchy ear


Should I see my doc?

If you think you or your child has an earwax impaction, please see your doctor. An inner ear infection, or otitis media, has similar symptoms with ear pain and dizziness, so your doc should take a look with an otoscope.

Ear wax treatment

ear-wax-1Occasionally, ear wax will be removed in your doctor’s office with flushing (with a syringe of water) or by scooping it out with a curette. DO NOT TRY TO SCOOP IT OUT AT HOME. This can lead to ear drum damage – please leave to the experts. Your normal doctor or an ear nose and throat doctor can help remove the ear wax if needed.

My favourite method involves putting drops of oil or diluted hydrogen peroxide in ear.

Most of the time we recommend ear wax removal methods that you can do from home. My favourite method involves putting drops of oil (any liquid oil will do, such as mineral or olive oil) or diluted hydrogen peroxide in ear (50:50 body temperature water to hydrogen peroxide). There are lots of over the counter products available as well. Lie your child down on his/her side, and put a few drops with a medicine dropper, let it sit for a minute or two, and repeat on the other side. Do this each night for 1-2 weeks, and the wax should liquefy and come out on its own. No need to scoop it out. Don’t be surprised if you see liquid wax on your child’s pillow!

Ear candling, where a hollow cone of paraffin and beeswax is lit to draw out the wax, IS NOT RECOMMENDED. Serious injury can occur, and evidence does not demonstrate that it even works.

Here is a great video of how your Doctor would rinse the wax out of your ear using a syringe with warm water. Before trying this at home, please see your physician. You can buy special ear syringes at your local drug store or pharmacy.

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Preventing ear wax build-up

Quite simply – leave the ear canal alone. Clean the outside of the ear with a facecloth or tissue, but don’t put anything in the canal, ever.

Wish to read more, here is a great article on Ear wax, otherwise known as Cerumen.


  •  Don’t use cotton swabs in the canal, ever!

  • Have your child seen by your doctor if you suspect wax build up

  • Simple oil drops can clear excess ear wax out.

Think your child may have an external ear infection? Do swimmers ear drops work?

What are symptoms of an ear infection?

Want to know what causes ear infections?

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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