Earwax May Be the Culprit of Hearing Loss among Assisted Living Residents

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Hearing Loss

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
Latest posts by Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D. (see all)

People in assisted living facilities can face a variety of challenges to their physical and mental well-being. Moreover, it can often be difficult to assess the needs of people in such facilities because their impediments make it difficult to communicate. Untreated hearing loss can play a large and oftentimes unsuspecting role in the wellbeing of people in assisted living facilities, on one hand, and on their abilities to communicate their needs, on the other. In fact, a huge impediment to the hearing abilities of this population of people is quite simple: earwax.

Understanding Earwax

The scientific word for earwax is “cerumen,” and it is produced by glands in the skin of the outer ear canal. From there it slowly makes its way to the opening of the ear as the result of everyday movements such as chewing and through the normal movements and rotations of our heads. When people do not produce enough, the ear dries out and can become itchy. This can become a bigger problem because people are prone to insert dangerous items such as cotton swaps into our ears in the hopes of scratching out some relief. Perhaps the most important role that earwax plays, though is to simply clean our bodies. When earwax is produced in healthy, normal amounts, the special chemicals it contains help to stave off infections that can wreak havoc on the middle and inner ear. Earwax also blocks harmful agents such as dust and dirt from getting past your outer ear and making it all the way to the ever-precious ear drum.

For most people, earwax either falls out of the out ear on its own or it is washed away during bathing. Some people simply produce more earwax than other people, and for some people a buildup of earwax is spurred on by activities such as swimming. When earwax is produced in abnormally high levels or when it is simply not cleaned out through activities such as showering, it can lead to larger problems. Earwax blockages can cause temporary hearing loss and to a general inability to hear clearly (or to hear all sounds in a muffled manner). Earwax buildup has also been linked to tinnitus (which is a ringing, buzzing, or clicking sound that only the hearer can perceive). Troubles with earwax can lead to general feelings of disorientation that result from the inability to hear the full sonic surroundings of one’s environment. Not only that, a buildup of earwax can often lead to a wide range of pain levels, from simple discomfort to debilitating earaches.

Impacted Earwax

These physical ailments can be especially troublesome for people in assisted living and other caregiving facilities who are also facing a wide range of physical and cognitive difficulties. Earwax should be carefully monitored by health professionals, and should only be removed under the guidance of trained professionals. Earwax should never be treated with cotton swabs, ear candles, or anything smaller than a pinky finger. More often than not, inserting objects into an ear canal leads to the earwax simply getting pushed deeper into the ear canal. This not only makes wax even harder to remove, but can lead to damaging your delicate eardrums.

If you or a loved one are in a caregiving facility and want to remain vigilant about earwax, explore whether ear and hearing checkups for earwax issues are regular options. When it comes to dealing with already existing earwax, a hearing health provider can use an instrument called an otoscope to detect any blockages in the ears. If there is excessive earwax, it can usually be dislodged using ear drops that soften the wax and gently flushing the ear and excess wax with warm water. A health worker may also use a tiny, blunt scoop called a curette to further loosen the relevant earwax. As part of a longer-term hearing health maintenance plan, caregivers and loved ones can help those in caregiving facilities to use regular ear drops that keep the ear canal clear and that keep earwax soft while maintaining them moisture of the ear canals.

It is important that people in assisted living and caregiving facilities have regular attention to their ears and larger hearing abilities. Their abilities to clearly hear not only affect their communication, but impacts their moods and cognitive abilities as well.

Visit Us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor

Are you experiencing issues with hearing? It could be impacted earwax – or it could be hearing loss. The best way to find out is to schedule a consultation with us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor.