About ear wax
Ear wax has an important job. It’s a filter for your child’s ear, protecting the ear canal from water, infection, trauma and foreign objects.
Ear wax comes from glands in the ear canal.
When it’s first made, ear wax is soft and colourless. When it comes into contact with air, it gets harder and becomes yellowish-brown.
The ear canal’s lining constantly renews itself. Along with chewing and talking, this process of renewal usually moves wax out of the ear. But sometimes a build-up of ear wax can block the ear canal.
The ear has 3 main parts – the outer ear (the ear canal and ear lobe), the middle ear (which is behind the eardrum and linked to the throat via a small tube), and the inner ear (which has the nerves that help to detect sound).
Symptoms of ear wax build-up
When ear wax builds up, it can cause discomfort like an earache. The build-up can also cause dizziness, mild hearing loss or ringing in the ear.
Medical help: when to get it for children with ear wax build-up
You should take your child to the GP if they have a build-up of ear wax that won’t soften with drops from the pharmacy.
Also see your GP if your child has sudden hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ear or unmanageable pain in their ear.
Treatment for ear wax build-up
Ear wax build-up is usually harmless and easily managed.
You can soften ear wax with drops that you can buy from your pharmacy. You can also use a few drops of olive oil. Often, the ear will then clean itself.
If your child has a regular build-up of ear wax, your GP might prescribe special ear drops.
Sometimes your GP will use a syringe to flush out or remove the wax. Or the GP might use microsuction, which gently sucks out the wax. In more serious cases of ear wax build-up, your child might need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Don’t use cotton buds to clean your child’s ear. They can push ear wax in deeper, cause it to build up, or even damage the ear canal or drum. If you do need to clean your child’s ear, gently use the twisted corner of a tissue.