Causes of Compacted Ear Wax

Updated February 21, 2017

The wax produced by ears, called cerumen, helps trap dirt and protects the ear from infection. But sometimes the ear wax builds up and becomes hard, blocking the ear. This can be physically uncomfortable and can make it difficult to hear. Removing the wax can also be difficult. Some people are more prone to compacted ear wax than others.

Excessive Wax

According the Mayo Clinic, some people produce more wax than the ear can use. In these people, the wax builds up. Regular cleaning of the ear to remove wax is the best solution if you are a person who produces excess ear wax.

Cleaning Ears the Wrong Way

Cleaning the ears with cotton swabs or other objects can force ear wax into the ear canal, causing blockage. According to Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine, most ears don't need deep cleaning. You can wipe the opening of the ear canal with a washcloth or tissue, but avoid inserting anything into the ear. New York University's Langone Medical Center cautions against using cotton swabs anywhere inside the ear. If you feel your ears need further cleaning, consult your physician for advice on the proper method for cleaning your ears.

Narrow Ear Canal

New York University's Langone Medical Center reports than some people are born with narrow, twisting ear canals. This makes it more likely that the canal will become clogged with wax.


People over the age of 50 are more prone to ear wax impaction, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This impaction can contribute to decreased hearing in older adults.

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About the Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.