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Are your ears plugged with wax? Do you need earwax removal, but are concerned that it may hurt?


The removal of earwax has the potential to cause discomfort or pain.  The pain, discomfort, and safety of removal depend upon the method that is used to remove the wax.  For most, earwax removal is similar to getting your teeth cleaned. You know it’s happening but it doesn’t hurt. 

There are many options for the removal of earwax.  Some options are not as effective or safe as others.  The doctors of audiology at San Francisco Hearing Center have advanced training in the removal of cerumen. The method that they use involves using a high-powered lighted curette, a loop, or a microscope.  Your audiologist will use these specialized tools to remove the cerumen without pain.  This method is also the safest and most effective in removing wax only by a trained professional.  If further attention is needed by an Ear Nose and Throat physician our office will refer you to one of our trusted ENT partners. If the physician can’t remove it with a curette, they may use gentle suction for earwax removal that generally does not hurt. 

Ear wax or cerumen is produced by three different glands in the ear canal. Cerumen has a protective feature.  It is only the overproduction of overaccumulation that may cause problems such as hearing loss, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and dizziness.  Ear wax is able to cause hearing loss if it is occluding the ear canal.  The doctors of Audiology at San Francisco hearing are able to determine with a specific exam if you have an overaccumulation of earwax. This exam is always done prior to a diagnostic hearing evaluation.   The wax has to be removed to obtain an accurate hearing evaluation.   

 Does earwax removal hurt? Attempting to remove the cerumen yourself, is not recommended, and may hurt. Cotton tip applicators or Q-tips should never be used inside the ear. The cotton tip applicator may push the wax deeper into the ear canal. This impaction of cerumen may cause a temporary hearing loss and may cause pain.  Your audiologist may recommend a wax softening agent, such as a carbamide peroxide otic if the wax has become impacted or hardened. This lessens significantly any pain that may be associated with the removal of the wax. If this agent is recommended, your audiologist will give very specific instructions.  Our ear canals are lined with thin delicate skin and these agents may cause irritation to the canal.  Regular cerumen removal is a service that San Francisco hearing offers to our patients. Many patients include cerumen removal as part of a regular maintenance program for optimal hearing. 

We only remove earwax when it is necessary to perform a hearing evaluation or fit you with a hearing aid. If routine earwax removal is needed we recommend you see a physician for removal.