Your ear canal produces a substance called cerumen, a waxy oil that protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, microorganisms and irritation due to water. We call this substance earwax and it usually washes away naturally when it makes its way from the canal into the ear opening.
When glands produce more earwax than is necessary, the wax can harden and block the ear. Wax buildup is a common reason for temporary hearing loss. Some people are prone to produce too much earwax that contributes to buildup. People who frequently use earbuds are also more likely to develop wax buildup, because the earbuds prevent wax from coming out of the ears.
Earwax can be light yellow to dark brown in color. Signs that indicate possible earwax buildup include:
- Sudden, partial, temporary hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear)
- Feeling of fullness in the ear