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Swimmers Ear - Excess Earwax or Cerumen Can Cause Hearing Loss

Updated on September 11, 2012

A simple rubber bulb syringe


Hearing loss afflicts over 35 million Americans, about 11.3 percent of the population, according to an organization called Hear It. . If you have trouble hearing it is not just a problem with your social life or relationships, it can be a safety hazard. Hearing loss is a serious matter.

This article is not meant to replace a visit to your doctor, but it is intended to bring your attention to a possible source of relief. The answer to your problem may be as simple as hydrogen peroxide or Debrox if, and only if, your hearing problem is caused by excessive ear wax.

What is Swimmers Ear?

Swimmers ear is a popular term that applies to people who suffer from excessive ear wax or cerumen. It's often called swimmers ear because the problem is most acute when you submerge under water, and the water pressure causes the wax to be further impacted into your auditory canal. Some people, after a dive into deep water, come to the surface with virtually no hearing. This has happened to me many times.

If you have trouble with your hearing, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor. I was having difficulty with my hearing, so much so that my wife actually called an audiologist to make an appointment for me. I reluctantly agreed that it was probably time for me to get a hearing aid. As a baby boomer in my mid-sixties, so many of my friends have hearing aids that I no longer thought of it as a thing to be embarrassed about. The doctor determined that my problem was not one of organic hearing loss, but of too much wax in my ears. It seems that I have an ear canal that just loves to trap the stuff. The audiologist first cleaned out my ears with a simple and painless procedure. Her assistant squirted some hydrogen peroxide into one ear. I was told to remain with my head sideways on a pillow to enable the solution to bubble away and loosen the wax. After 15 minutes she then sprayed water into my ear with a syringe. It was like someone had removed an earmuff. She repeated the procedure for my other ear. Only after removing the excess wax did she administer a battery of audiological tests. My hearing was perfect. I was not a candidate for a hearing aid. Besides causing hearing problems, excessive wax, if left unattended, can lead to ear infections.

My visit to the audiologist wasn't the first time I realized that I have a swimmers ear problem. But the difference between my prior swimmers ear experiences and this one was a matter of gradualness. After swimming it was obvious what happened to my hearing. But this time I hadn't been swimming. My hearing just gradually diminished over time, so slowly that I didn't notice it, although others did.

The Simple Way to Handle Ear Was Problems

The good news is that the procedure that the doctor performed is easy to do at home. It's painless, almost pleasant. Hydrogen peroxide and the product Debrox are the substances of choice for busting up that wax. Here is what I do, every two weeks. I lay my head sideways on a pillow (covered with a towel in case of a spill). I pour some hydrogen peroxide into the cap and then draw some of it up into a small rubber syringe. I then squirt the stuff into my ear and lay there for 15 minutes or so. I then walk to the bathroom, keeping my head tilted, and go to the sink with the syringe. I draw up some warm water into the syringe and squeeze it with force into my ear. The difference is amazing. If you use Debrox, you squirt the substance right out of the bottle into your ear.

I was fortunate that my hearing problem was caused by something so easy to remedy. If you have a hearing problem, see your doctor. You may be lucky and have only an ear wax problem, a simple thing to remedy. Once you have determined that your problem is excessive wax buildup in your ears, it isn't necessary to go to the doctor's office for a remedy. It's cheap and simple and you can handle it yourself.


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    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 5 years ago from Rowland Woods

      This is good for everyone to know! Not only can excessive wax be a safety hazard, it can be very painful. I had a horrible case of swimmer's ear as a child; it was so painful I couldn't eat or sleep. I was told just recently that if you get water trapped in your ear, put just a couple drops of rubbing alcohol in the ear canal. Helped my daughter immediately. Anyway, great hub, useful and shared!

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Absolutely super information and well written. I'm one of those that is constantly trying to stay ahead of the ear wax problem but admit, some of the hearing loss is due to age and a broken eardrum -- there's so much that goes on with ears besides listening -- LOL! Best/Sis

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thank you for your visit and your comments. Your car blinker comment really illustrates the dangers of even minor hearing loss.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks rfmoran, for calling attention to a very serious but often ignored problem. My friend has hearing loss. Although he too had excessive ear wax, he was not as fortunate as you. It began when he put his swimming cap over his ears. After coming out of the water, the suction caused by the tight cap made his ear pop when he took it off. It's rare but it happens. Hearing loss, even a little, is indeed a safety hazard (like when I have to tell him his blinker is still blinking after switching lanes in traffic). Awesome hub. Voted up.