My Child Can’t Hear Out of One Ear: Could Wax Buildup Be to Blame?

My Child Can’t Hear Out of One Ear: Could Wax Buildup Be to Blame?

 Hearing is one of the basic senses we need to make sense of everything that happens around us, and for children developing that skill, it’s important to keep track of how they’re progressing. Within the first year alone, children will develop hearing skills important to basic functions, like reacting to the source of a sound, recognizing loud noises, vocalizing based on moods, repeating sounds to understand them, imitating simple words, and being read to.

Hearing problems can disrupt hearing development in children, but the source of the problem is not always a serious condition. Wax buildup, for example, can affect your child’s hearing but can be managed pretty easily. Let’s learn more about how wax buildup can affect your child by examining the function of earwax, the issues buildup can create, and what can be done about it.

If you live in the Lake Oswego, Oregon, area and you’re trying to help your child with hearing problems, our team of specialists at Lake Grove ENT can help.

The function of earwax

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a substance created by the ear canal to help protect the skin, form a waterproof layer, trap dirt and dust, remove dead skin, and fight germs and other particles that can cause bacterial and fungal infections. There are actually two types of earwax depending on your genetics (specifically the ABCC11 gene): dry and wet. African and European people are more likely to have the wet variety, and East Asian people tend to have the more flaky, dry earwax.

This off-white, yellow, orange or brown substance is made up of different substances, like keratin, cholesterol, long-chain fatty acids, squalene, and wax and alcohol esters, that are made in the sebaceous and ceruminous glands.

Problems with buildup

The wax buildup in ears is quite normal, as it doesn’t automatically indicate a blockage is imminent. It’s actually more likely to happen when children put things in our ears that push the earwax further in, such as using earphones or things kids use to get earwax out, like cotton swabs or their fingers. 

Doing so leads to a variety of other problems when the blockage gets bad enough, such as earache, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), a feeling of fullness, and partial or complete loss of hearing in the affected ear. Left unremoved, your child can experience ear infections, severe ear pain, ear drainage, persistent hearing loss, dizziness, fever, and coughing.

How to manage earwax buildup in children

Despite attempts to remove earwax through means of objects put in the ear, which are a common cause of the problem, there are ways to manage it at home and reduce the risk of it recurring. The key is to soften the earwax first, either by using baby oil, mineral oil, and glycerin or using over-the-counter softening drops. Once these have done their job, a bulb-type syringe filled with warm water can be used to remove the wax. We can clear out the wax using similar methods or a high-powered microscope to examine the ear, suction the excess, and clear the canal.

To prevent dealing with this, simply avoid the temptation to put things in your child’s ear to clear things out. Soften the wax, then remove it with water.

Yes, earwax can block your child’s ear, but it can be managed at home or in our office if you have problems taking care of it. So, when your kids have hearing issues and nothing at home is doing the job, make an appointment with the team of specialists at Lake Grove ENT.

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