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Ear Wax and Hearing Aids

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Updated July 25, 2009

Photo of a child getting a new hearing aid

A child gets a new hearing aid

Photo: China Photos / Getty Images
If you wear a hearing aid or use an earmold with a cochlear implant, you may have noticed ear wax (earwax), also known as cerumen, on the earmold. A buildup of ear wax in an earmold user can:
  • Damage a hearing aid
  • Cause hearing aid feedback
  • Reduce the effectiveness of the hearing aid by blocking sound
  • Cause (further) hearing loss
Hearing aid users are at especially high risk for ear wax buildup. When a parent said on the About.com Deafness forum that she had been told by her child's doctor that the more her child wore his hearing aids, the more his ear wax would build up. She wanted to know if it was true. Unfortunately, it is true. In response to a blog post about her message, an emergency room registered nurse responded:
I am an RN in the ER. It is true that ear wax builds more behind hearing aids and may need to be removed more often. We have to clean our patient's who have hearing aids more often because the wax buildup can prevent hearing even more. This deep ear wax should be removed professionally if softening drops and rinsing does not remove them at home. However, if your doctor is saying he shouldn't wear them due to this, he is just being lazy and not wanting to have to clean them more frequently. I would not want my child to miss out on the sounds of daily living just because he doesn't want to have to clean them out as often.
Hearing aid users face a dilemma when it comes to ear wax. The current guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation recommend that people who wear hearing aids get professional ear cleaning once or twice a year. Nobody should try to remove ear wax by themselves. The best thing to do is leave the ear wax alone and let the ear clean itself out naturally. If you try to clean it out yourself, you risk pushing the wax in more deeply, making it impacted. At the same time, an earmold prevents the ear from being able to clean itself out naturally. Therefore, a hearing aid user will have to make regular trips to a healthcare professional to have the wax professionally removed.

Is earwax a problem for you as a hearing aid or cochlear implant user? Talk about it on the forum.

Sources:

Kathleen Doheny, "Leave That Ear Wax Alone: New guidelines say most people don't need to remove it," US News and World Report August 29, 2008.

"Hearing Specialist Craft First Professional Guidelines For Earwax," Science Daily, August 31, 2008.

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  3. Deafness
  4. Hearing Aids and Implants
  5. Hearing Aids
  6. Earmolds
  7. Ear Wax - Ear Wax Buildup With Hearing Aids

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