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Dizziness from ear wax build-up

Updated July 19, 2017

The human ear is a very delicate, complex, and still not fully understood structure. The combination of inner, middle and outer ear makes up our hearing and balance organs. Hearing and balance are closely related, so it's no surprise that excessive ear wax can have an effect on equilibrium. This article will explain how, why and what to do about it.

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The outer portion of the ear is very well known to most consisting of the lobes, ear canal, and ear drum. The middle ear houses the three smallest bones in our body; these bones are all connected forming a chain. The first bone attaches to the backside of the ear drum and the last bone to a small window of flesh that leads into the inner ear. The inner ear houses the cochlea which is a nerve centre for hearing, and the semicircular canals which are a nerve centre for balance. Both nerve centres in the inner ear send signals to the brain regarding hearing and balance.


Ear wax is produced in the outer ear canal. The main purpose of wax is to lubricate the very thin layer of skin in the canal, to keep the canal sterile, and to repel bugs from entering our ear. Great purposes however, too much ear wax can cause pain, temporary loss of hearing, and temporary dizziness. All ears are different and although most produce the same amount of wax it's the type of wax produced that can cause repeated build up in some ears and none in others. When it does build up it becomes very noticeable with the first sign usually being a loss of hearing.


Dizziness can be caused from ear wax in two ways. The first scenario is when wax has built up to a point of filling the canal and is putting pressure on or around the ear drum. The second would be a piece of wax that is lying on the ear drum causing pressure and/or movement. The ears own cleaning process is designed to move the wax forward and out naturally. With the introduction of cotton swabs we now push wax into our ears causing build up or pieces to stay in the ear.


When a constant pressure is placed on the ear drum it puts a strain on the bones in the middle ear which in turn places pressure onto the semicircular canals of the inner ear and causes those nerves to send a message to the brain saying something isn't rite. This chain reaction can make you feel off balance, dizzy, lightheaded and sometimes nauseous.


Once the ear wax is removed, your equilibrium should return to normal. When ear wax is impacted or very deep and touching the ear drum it should be professionally removed. Using flushing kits at home may make the dizziness worse by putting more pressure on the drum and causing deeper impaction to occur. A nurse or doctor can safely remove the wax at a clinic or hospital.

You only have one set of ears to keep you balanced and hearing. Don't ignore the beginning signs of wax build up, constant itching or burning in the canal, a full feeling in the ear, or slight loss of hearing. Get the wax cleaned out before it becomes severe and you won't have to suffer with the uncomfortable dizziness that can be caused by ear wax build up.

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About the Author

Nadia Benavidez

In the hot desert of Arizona, Nadia Benavidez has been studying hearing instrument science since 2002. After leaving a clinical practice, Benavidez has put her talent to work writing informative articles related to health and wellness. Currently Benavidez is working on her first book.

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