Wax impaction or cerumen impaction is a blockage of the external ear canal by ear wax. The human external ear has a self-cleaning mechanism as the skin of the ear canal tends to migrate outward caring the wax out with it. In some people, wax tends to accumulate over time due to the size or shape of the ear canal or excessive hair growth in the canal. Attempts to clean the ear with cotton swabs frequently leads to an impaction as the wax get pushed further into the canal. Ear wax or cerumen is produced by cerumen glands in the outer part of the canal. Consequently, wax should never be found down near the ear drum. Since sound can penetrate through the smallest opening in the wax, a cerumen impaction will not cause a hearing loss until the ear canal is completely occluded or the wax has been pushed up against the ear drum inhibiting its ability to vibrate.
A wax impaction should always be treated by a professional. Attempting to remove a wax impaction by the use of cotton swabs, OTC ear washes and candling is generally not recommended. These self-treatments frequently cause trauma to the ear canal and secondary infections.
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a yellowish pliable substance secreted in the outer ear canal. It protects the ears, assists in cleaning and lubrication and also provides protection from invaders such as dust, dirt, bacteria, fungi, insects and water.