About ear wax in children

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. The ear canal’s lining constantly renews itself. Along with chewing and talking, this process of renewal usually moves wax out of the ear.

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 has three main parts – the outer ear (the ear canal and ear lobe), the middle ear (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

Sometimes a build-up of ear wax can block the ear canal.

This build-up can cause discomfort like an earache. The build-up can also sometimes cause dizziness, mild deafness or ringing in the ear.

In most cases ear wax build-up is harmless and easily managed.

Does your child need to see a doctor about ear wax build-up?

You should take your child to the GP if you think she has a build-up of ear wax that you can’t soften with drops from the pharmacy.

Also see your GP if your child has sudden deafness, dizziness, ringing in the ear or unmanageable pain in his ear.

Treatment for ear wax build-up

You can soften ear wax with drops that you can buy from your pharmacy. You can also use a few drops of olive oil.

If your child has a regular build-up of ear wax, she might have to use special ear drops.

Sometimes your GP will use a syringe to flush out or remove the wax. In more serious cases of ear wax build-up, your child might need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Avoid using cotton buds in your child’s ear, because they can push ear wax in deeper or even cause damage to the ear canal or drum.