Earwax build-up (2024)

Earwax normally just falls out on its own. When it's blocking your ears, a pharmacist can help.

Symptoms of earwax build-up

Symptoms of earwax build-up include:

  • hearing loss
  • earache or a feeling that your ears are blocked
  • ringing or buzzing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • vertigo (feeling dizzy and sick)

How you can treat earwax build-up yourself

Earwax usually falls out on its own. If it does not, and builds up and blocks your ear, you can try to remove it.

To remove earwax build-up:

  1. Lie on your side with the affected ear facing up.
  2. Put 2 to 3 drops of olive or almond oil in your ear – do not use almond oil if you're allergic to almonds.
  3. Continue to lie on your side for 5 to 10 minutes after putting in the oil.
  4. Repeat 3 to 4 times a day, for 3 to 5 days.

Over about 2 weeks, lumps of earwax should fall out of your ear and your symptoms should improve.

There's no evidence that ear candles or ear vacuums get rid of earwax.


Do not use your fingers or any objects like cotton buds to remove earwax. This will push it in and make it worse.

A pharmacist can help with earwax build-up

Speak to a pharmacist about earwax build-up. They can give advice and suggest treatments.

They might recommend medicines to dissolve the earwax. The earwax should fall out on its own or dissolve after about a week.

Do not use drops if you have a hole in your eardrum (a perforated eardrum).

Non-urgent advice: See a nurse at your GP surgery if:

  • you have symptoms of ear wax build-up which have not cleared after 5 days
  • your ear is badly blocked and you cannot hear anything (you could get an infection if it has not cleared)

GP surgery treatment to remove earwax

Not all GP surgeries remove earwax build-up.

Some can:

  • flush the wax out with water (ear irrigation)
  • suck the wax out (microsuction)

These treatments are usually painless.

You might have to pay to have them done privately.

Causes of earwax build-up

A build-up of earwax can happen if you have:

  • narrow or damaged ear canals
  • lots of hair in your ear canals
  • a skin condition affecting your scalp or around your ear
  • inflammation of your ear canal (otitis externa or "swimmer's ear")

Preventing earwax build-up

You cannot prevent earwax. It's there to protect your ears from dirt and germs.

But regularly using eardrops, or olive or almond oil, will help soften earwax build-up. This will help it fall out on its own and should stop your ears getting blocked.

Page last reviewed: 05 January 2024
Next review due: 05 January 2027

Earwax build-up (2024)


How do you remove ear wax build up? ›

If your doctor recommends that you try to remove earwax at home: Soften and loosen the earwax with warm mineral oil. You also can try hydrogen peroxide mixed with an equal amount of room temperature water. Place 2 drops of the fluid, warmed to body temperature, in the ear two times a day for up to 5 days.

Why do I get so much ear wax build up? ›

Some people regularly get blocked ears because they naturally produce a lot of earwax. Other causes include: producing naturally hard or dry earwax. having narrow or hairy ear canals (the tube between the opening of the ear and the eardrum)

What dissolves ear wax immediately? ›

If the aim is to completely break down the wax, waxsol, peroxide 3% or a sodium bicarbonate solution (which can be prepared by your local pharmacist) is effective.

How can I stop wax build up in my ears? ›

Preventing earwax build-up

You cannot prevent earwax. It's there to protect your ears from dirt and germs. But regularly using eardrops, or olive or almond oil, will help soften earwax build-up. This will help it fall out on its own and should stop your ears getting blocked.

How do you get rid of earwax in 30 seconds? ›

Soak a cotton ball with the hydrogen peroxide. Tilt your head and drip the peroxide into your ear. You may hear it fizz as it tries to dissolve the earwax. After about 30 seconds, drain your ear onto a washcloth.

Does earwax buildup go away on its own? ›

Earwax blockage that has no symptoms can sometimes clear on its own. However, if you have signs and symptoms of earwax blockage, talk to your health care provider. Signs and symptoms may signal another condition.

How do I know if I need ear wax removal? ›

A doctor or nurse can look into the ear canal and confirm a plug of earwax has formed. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance. You only need to remove earwax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing or when fitting a hearing aid.

How often should I clean my ears? ›

Frequent washing, however, can do more harm than good because it strips the ear of this delicate, protective lining, leaving the way open for bacteria to get in and multiply. Experts, recommend that you only clean your ears every two to four weeks.

How to open a blocked ear at home? ›

If your ears are plugged, try swallowing, yawning or chewing sugar-free gum to open your eustachian tubes. If this doesn't work, take a deep breath and try to blow out of your nose gently while pinching your nostrils closed and keeping your mouth shut. If you hear a popping noise, you know you have succeeded.

How long does it take for soften ear wax to come out? ›

Put 2 or 3 drops of ordinary olive oil down the ear 2 or 3 times a day for 2-3 weeks. This softens the wax so that it then runs out of its own accord without harming the ear. You can continue for any length of time, but 3 weeks is usually enough. Surprisingly, you will not necessarily see wax come out.

How to tell if you have too much ear wax? ›

These are the most common symptoms of impacted earwax:
  1. Hearing loss.
  2. Earache.
  3. Sense of ear fullness.
  4. Itching in the ear.
  5. Dizziness.
  6. Ringing in the ears.
  7. Cough.

How to remove ear blockage? ›

Apply warm compresses: Use steam or warm compresses to help unclog the ears. To do this, place a warm compress on the affected ear to allow steam to get inside the ear. Taking a hot shower for 10 to 15 minutes may also serve the same purpose.

How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to unclog ears? ›

Insert the drops: Carefully insert a few drops into the ear canal using a dropper or syringe. Wait: Stay still and wait about five minutes, giving the drops time to work. Drain: Tilt your head to allow the solution to drain out.

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