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Why Does Earwax Build Up After Age 60?

If it seems as though you’re getting more earwax build-ups as you get older, it’s probably not your imagination. Cerumen blockages affect about 5% of American adults, but that number soars to 57% for residents in nursing homes. There’s a definite connection between earwax blockages and age. 

Excess earwax can be itchy, and it can plug your ears, reducing your ability to hear, as well as causing pain and sensations of fullness in your ear. When you try to clear blockages with a cotton swab or other tool, it’s likely you’ll pack wax even more completely, and you could risk damaging your eardrum. 

Visit Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat for all your ear care needs. As ear care specialists, we can safely remove earwax for you to minimize its impact on your life. We can also help with hearing tests and assistive devices to ensure you stay in touch with the world around you. 

The role of earwax

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is one of your body’s protective systems, designed to block bacteria, dust, germs, and small objects from entering your ears. Its consistency is, not surprisingly, waxy. 

The stickiness traps foreign objects and pathogens before dropping from your ears from time to time. You may not notice this, as wax may exit your ear when you shower or swim. 

The glands that produce cerumen direct a flow that moves away from the eardrum. Chewing and talking provide movements that help to advance earwax out of the ear canal. 

Earwax is normal and the sign of a healthy ear. Its pH is naturally acidic, protecting you against bacteria and fungi that would otherwise enjoy the moist and dark conditions in the ear canal. 

Why does earwax build up after the age of 60? 

As you get older, many systems in your body change slightly, and your ears are no exception. The glands that secrete cerumen produce a wax that’s drier and less pliable than it was when you were younger. 

Dry earwax doesn’t move along the ear canal as easily, and the facial movements that once took care of wax disposal might not be as effective at this task. You may be more aware of earwax as it makes its presence known through increasing itchiness. 

Other factors that boost earwax production or blockages include medical conditions like eczema, or wearing hearing aids or earbuds frequently. 

Whenever wax production works more quickly than wax disposal, you’re at risk of blockages, and chances of this occurring increase as you get older. 

As well as providing earwax removal services, we can also advise you on how to keep earwax soft and flowing. Don’t try to manually remove wax at home, as this usually pushes wax deeper into your ears. 

Contact the team at Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat to schedule an ear care appointment by phone or online today.

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