Ear Wax: A Cautionary Tale

Last Thursday I went to get moulded for custom ACS ear plugs. It turned out my ears were completely blocked with ear wax. I had no idea and I hadn’t really noticed any hearing loss that couldn’t be explained away by me also having a cold.

I was referred to the doctor for a syringing, but in order to prepare for the this the wax has to be softened for a few days before hand with drops. The drops can sometimes cause the ear wax to remove itself naturally as well. I had an audition booked for Sunday and so I began to use the drops the same day, hoping they might loosen some of wax in time. However, the ear drop packaging, audiologist and advice online all neglected to warn of an important symptom of using this kind of treatment:

I’ve gone completely deaf!

After two days of using the drops, the ear wax swelled up and was pushed further into my ear right up to the ear drum. This caused me to lose about 80% of my hearing. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. According to my doctor who I’ve visited to day, this is a common problem with ear drops, so why it isn’t mentioned on the packaging is beyond me.

If you have an important bit of playing to do and you have a build up of ear wax, do not use ear drops until after you’ve done it! If I’d known, I would have waited and avoided the trouble of trying to play jazz deaf.

Wearing ear plugs and heavy vibrations can both cause ear wax to become built up and compacted in the ear, so it’s really worth bearing this in mind if you’re a musician.

My syringing is tomorrow. I expect it to be like hearing again for the first time.

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5 thoughts on “Ear Wax: A Cautionary Tale”

  1. Oy – I have some nightmares tories about ear wax including getting an ear infection and having to take a plane trip. It does seem to silently build up without one noticing. Probably worth having cleaned out once a year even if there are no noticeable problems.

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    1. I’ll be careful from now on for sure. I’ve never had a problem before, but with wearing ear plugs so much it seems like an inevitability!

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    2. For years I’ve been getting the same waxy buildup. In the past I’d go to the ear docter to get the water syringe treatment about once a year but lately I’ve upped the visits to twice a year. Coincidentally I’m going to the ear doctor today to get a hearing test as the ringing in my ears, which I’ve had for years as recently increased a notch. (I’m 55) I’m going to ask him about those noise cancelling ear plugs and tell him what you wrote about it impacting the wax.

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      1. Apparently hearing aids and ear plugs can push the wax further in there, but if you’re prone to it, it seems like there isn’t a way to stop wax building up… as I’m sure you know! The ACS custom moulded plugs seem to be about the best you can get, anyway, as they’re designed to lower the noise by a certain number of decibels but keep the frequency response the same. I’ll post a review once I get mine.

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