Pronounced: suh-ROO-men im-PAK-shon
Cerumen is the soft yellow wax made by glands in your ear canal. It is more commonly known as earwax. Cerumen impaction happens when earwax becomes wedged in and blocks the ear canal.
The Ear Canal
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Cerumen impaction is usually caused by:
Cerumen impaction is more common in older adults. It can cause hearing loss.
Factors that increase your risk of getting cerumen impactation include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An ear exam will be done to look for impacted cerumen.
Treatment involves removal of the earwax from the ear canal. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Cerumen can be removed by:
Earwax moves out of your ear naturally. Earwax should not be removed by you. In fact, continuously trying to clean your ear of cerumen by using a cotton swab, for example, can damage your ear. By trying to remove earwax, you can:
To help reduce your chances of getting cerumen impaction, take the following steps:
American Academy of Audiology
American Speech–Language–Hearing Association
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Cerumen impaction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 30, 2012. Accessed September 11, 2014.
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Mahoney DF. Cerumen impaction. Prevalence and detection in nursing homes. J Gerontol Nurs. 1993;19:23-30.
Olusanya BO. Hearing impairment in children with impacted cerumen. Ann Trop Paediatr. 2003;23:121-128.
Pray WS, Pray JJ. Earwax: Should it be removed? US Pharmacist. 2005;30(5).
2/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Ear candles: risk of serious injuries. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm201108.htm. Published February 20, 2010. Accessed September 11, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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