Hard of Hearing vs Wax Buildup – Things to Know About Your Auditory Health

Hard of Hearing vs Wax Buildup – Things to Know About Your Auditory Health
Image by gpointstudio on Freepik

If you’re finding that sounds around you are gradually becoming faint or muffled, it may be easy to jump to the conclusion that age-related hearing loss is setting in. However, sometimes what seems like a serious auditory issue could just be a case of earwax buildup. 

Untangling the symptoms and understanding the difference between hearing loss and wax buildup is crucial to properly diagnose your condition, find adequate treatment, and ultimately restore your auditory health. 

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know. Let’s get started. 

Earwax Buildup: Causes and Complications

Earwax buildup, or cerumen impaction, is a common ear-related issue affecting many individuals worldwide. In fact, reports show that roughly 10% of children and 5% of adults suffer from this condition. The risk escalates among those who frequently use hearing aids, earplugs, or earbuds as these can cause wax to accumulate within the ear canal.

While this condition can cause worrying symptoms like temporary hearing loss, it can be easily treated by an audiologist or hearing specialist. Let’s gain a better understanding of earwax buildup below. 

What Causes Earwax Buildup?

Impacted earwax occurs due to a combination of factors. For instance, some people naturally produce more earwax than others, which can make them more prone to problems like buildups. Additionally, using items such as cotton swabs or hearing aids without proper care may push wax deeper into the ear canal, causing excessive earwax to accumulate.

Symptoms of Earwax Buildup

Identifying the symptoms of earwax buildup is crucial for its early detection and treatment. Here are some common signs that you might be dealing with an excessive amount of earwax:

  • A feeling of fullness or discomfort in your ear.
  • Decreased hearing capabilities (i.e.: having a feeling that your ears are clogged or blocked)
  • Tinnitus, or a ringing sensation in your ears.
  • Earache or pain in your ear 
  • Itching or irritation, especially on the outer part of your ear.
  • Ear discharges and leaking
  • Dizziness or balance problems that seem unusual.

If you suspect that you have impacted earwax, you should consult an audiologist to obtain an accurate diagnosis. 

Being Hard of Hearing: What You Need To Know

Hearing loss can affect virtually anyone, and have a profound impact on a person’s ability to work, interact with others, and remain independent in their daily life. Often, hearing loss progresses over time, making it difficult to recognize at first. You might find yourself turning up the volume on devices or straining to understand conversations in noisy environments. It’s crucial to realize that these could be early signs of hearing loss and shouldn’t be ignored.

If not addressed promptly, hearing loss can lead to social isolation and feelings of frustration. But it does not end here! Over time, it can also significantly increase the risk of developing conditions like dementia. In some cases, hearing loss may also be only one of the symptoms of an underlying condition, like heart disease or diabetes. 

Seeking specialized treatment can help you avoid disabling complications and protect your hearing from further degeneration. 

Common Conditions That Cause Hearing Loss

Besides impacted ear wax, there are several conditions that can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. Understanding what these conditions are can help you take steps to protect your hearing health in the long term. 

In the section below, we’ll look at the most common causes of hearing loss. 

Age-Related Degeneration

As you age, your ears – and the hair cells responsible for capturing sounds and transmitting signals to the brain – can undergo natural degeneration, which can lead to hearing loss. 

Because this type of hearing loss mainly affects older adults, if you are looking after an aging parent or friend, prevention and care are essential to help them maintain their health and support optimum auditory function.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Caused by exposure to loud noises, noise-Induced Hearing Loss – commonly referred to as NIHL – is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. In the U.S. alone, it affects a staggering 10 million adults, which constitutes roughly 6 percent of the population. 

You can significantly reduce the risk of suffering from NIHL by improving your work environment, minimizing exposure to noise pollution, and using adequate hearing protection. 


Tinnitus – a condition that causes you to hear noises that don’t actually exist, such as ringing sounds – doesn’t cause hearing loss directly, but it can impact your ability to hear properly. It’s a sign you might have something wrong with your ears, such as damage to parts of the auditory system. 

A lot of people suffer from this condition today – about one in 10 adults today. In some cases, tinnitus is a temporary issue that can be resolved by addressing the underlying condition that is causing it. However, sometimes, it can be a sign that there is something wrong with your ear – that’s where learning to recognize this condition can help you find adequate treatment without delay. 

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), is a condition that affects how your brain processes sound information. This disorder can be triggered by damage to the auditory pathway stemming from factors such as premature birth, chronic ear infections, or genetic disposition. While there is no outright cure for APD, various treatments like auditory training exercises and speech therapy can help manage the symptoms and enhance your ability to understand speech.

Diagnosing Your Hearing Condition: Here’s How To Get Started

Distinguishing earwax buildup from hearing loss can be tricky as they share common symptoms like muffled hearing. But, unique indicators like frequent ringing in your ears or dizziness suggest a more serious issue. 

Because of this, you should not think twice about seeing an audiologist. A specialist will be able to adequately test your hearing and offer you a clear view of what’s causing your hearing loss. What’s more, an audiologist will help you understand how to protect your hearing and prevent further problems. 

So don’t delay – reach out to an audiologist today to obtain an accurate diagnosis of your condition and find an adequate treatment plan.