March 2, 2024

Can Earwax Cause Tinnitus? A Sticky Situation

Can Earwax Cause Tinnitus? A Sticky Situation

Written by

Michael Piskosz

Audiologist & Tinnitus Specialist

Reviewed by

Dr. Fabrice Bardy

Audiologist & Neuroscientist

Earwax, or cerumen, is a natural substance produced by the body, that plays a crucial role in the health of our ears. However, excessive buildup can lead to various issues, including tinnitus, a condition characterized by ringing or buzzing in the ears.

This article explores the relationship between earwax and tinnitus, offering insights into wax management and tinnitus relief strategies.

The Purpose of Earwax

Earwax, medically known as cerumen, plays a crucial role in maintaining ear health, serving as a natural defense mechanism for the ear canal. Its primary purpose is to protect the ears from bacteria, dust, and other foreign particles, effectively trapping them to prevent inner ear infections and maintain a clean auditory pathway. Additionally, earwax lubricates the ear canal, preventing dryness and itchiness that can lead to discomfort. However, when produced in excess, earwax can lead to a blockage within the ear canal which can prevent external sounds from entering the ear effectively. Understanding the importance of earwax underscores the need for proper ear care and hygiene, ensuring this natural protective barrier functions effectively to support overall ear health and hearing quality.

Earwax and Tinnitus

Excessive earwax buildup is a common yet often overlooked factor contributing to tinnitus - the persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears that many find distressing. A significant buildup of earwax can temporarily reduce hearing ability. This form of conductive hearing loss makes external sounds appear quieter. As a result, the contrast between the silence caused by the blockage and the internal noise of tinnitus becomes more pronounced. In essence, with fewer external sounds to compete with, the tinnitus noise becomes more prominent and can seem louder. Understanding the link between earwax buildup and tinnitus is crucial for those seeking relief, as simple ear-cleaning procedures can significantly reduce tinnitus symptoms, offering a clear and straightforward solution to this auditory challenge. Prioritizing ear health and regular check-ups can thus play a pivotal role in managing tinnitus effectively and improving overall auditory well-being.

Ear Blockage Can Increase the Focus on Internal Sounds

With the reduction in external auditory stimuli due to the earwax blockage, there's an increased focus on internal sounds. This heightened awareness can make the tinnitus more salient. The brain may also amplify these internal sounds, including tinnitus, in the absence of external auditory input, further increasing the perception of tinnitus.

Psychological Impact of a More Prominent Tinnitus

The irritation and discomfort caused by earwax blockage can lead to increased stress or anxiety in some individuals. Since stress and anxiety are known to exacerbate the perception of tinnitus, this can create a vicious cycle where the physical blockage not only makes tinnitus more noticeable but also more distressing due to the psychological impact.

Safe Earwax Removal Techniques

Proper earwax removal is crucial to prevent damage to the ear and worsening of tinnitus symptoms. Discover safe earwax removal techniques to protect your hearing and prevent discomfort. First, have your medical doctor perform a hearing check and examine your ear. Then, if necessary, have a healthcare provider remove the earwax. Gentle irrigation is also an effective method to maintain ear health without risking damage.. Avoid invasive tools like cotton swabs that can push wax deeper, leading to blockages. Embrace these expert-recommended practices for a clear, healthy ear canal, ensuring your auditory well-being is never compromised.  

Safe earwax removal is essential for overall ear health and can help alleviate tinnitus.

What you can do: 

  • Professional Cleaning: Have earwax removed by a doctor or hearing healthcare professional to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  • Gentle Methods: Use gentle, non-invasive methods for at-home earwax management as recommended by a healthcare provider.
  • Avoid Ear Candling: Steer clear of ear candling, and other ear wax removal scams, as many are not a safe or effective method for earwax removal.

Will My Tinnitus Go Away After Removing Earwax 

Many individuals experiencing tinnitus often wonder if the condition is linked to ear wax buildup and whether removing this wax can provide relief. While ear wax removal can be beneficial for individuals whose tinnitus is directly linked to ear canal blockages, it's important to have realistic expectations and understand that tinnitus relief varies from person to person. Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your specific condition. This section explores the relationship between ear wax removal and tinnitus relief, offering insights into what individuals can expect following the procedure.

While ear wax removal can alleviate certain types of tinnitus, particularly those caused by blockages, it's not a universal solution for all tinnitus cases.

What you can expect:

  • Immediate Relief for Some: In cases where tinnitus is directly caused by earwax blockage, removal can provide immediate and noticeable relief. For individuals whose tinnitus is linked to wax buildup, professional ear cleaning can lead to a significant reduction in symptoms. In fact, when this blockage is removed, it restores the normal flow of sound to the eardrum and inner ear. This allows external sounds to enter more freely, which can help mask the internal sounds of tinnitus, making them less noticeable.
  • No Change for Others: For many, tinnitus originates from other factors such as noise-induced hearing loss or ototoxic medications, meaning ear wax removal might not impact their tinnitus. Those whose tinnitus stems from non-wax-related issues may not experience any change in their symptoms post-removal, necessitating further exploration of alternative management strategies.
  • Potential for Improvement: Even if earwax is not the primary cause of tinnitus, removing blockages can improve overall ear health, potentially reducing the intensity of tinnitus symptoms. The removal of earwax can eliminate the conductive hearing loss caused by the blockage. With the return of hearing ability to its normal state, the contrast between external sounds and the internal sounds of tinnitus is reduced.

Managing Tinnitus Throughout the Day

While dealing with earwax-related tinnitus, incorporating daily management strategies can provide additional relief and improve quality of life. Effectively managing tinnitus throughout the day is essential for maintaining focus and achieving a sense of calm amidst the challenges it presents. Incorporating sound masking techniques, such as using white noise machines or soothing nature sounds, can significantly reduce the perception of tinnitus, providing much-needed relief. Additionally, practicing mindfulness and relaxation exercises can help mitigate the stress and anxiety often associated with tinnitus, enhancing overall well-being. By adopting these strategies, individuals can navigate their daily routines with greater ease, minimizing the impact of tinnitus on their quality of life and promoting a more balanced and peaceful state of mind.

Daily tinnitus management can complement earwax removal for more comprehensive relief.

What you can do: 

  • Sound Therapy: Use apps or sound machines to help mask tinnitus sounds.
  • Stress Reduction: Engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation or light exercise to alleviate tinnitus symptoms.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, to support overall well-being and reduce tinnitus symptoms.

Quick Tips for Tinnitus Relief

For immediate tinnitus relief, consider incorporating simple yet effective strategies into your daily routine. Start by introducing background noise, such as soft music or a white noise machine, to mask the intrusive sounds of tinnitus, making them less noticeable. Protect your ears from loud environments by using earplugs, as exposure to high decibel levels can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms. Additionally, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress, which is often linked to increased tinnitus severity. These quick tips not only offer a reprieve from tinnitus but also contribute to a more serene and manageable daily life, enhancing overall well-being.

Simple, everyday strategies can offer quick relief from tinnitus symptoms.

What you can do: 

  • Mindful Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to reduce stress and tinnitus intensity.
  • Break the Silence: Keep a low level of background noise to help distract from tinnitus sounds. Don’t turn the volume up too high, or completely mask your tinnitus.
  • Hearing Protection: Wear ear protection in noisy environments to prevent further hearing damage and tinnitus aggravation. 


It is important to understand that earwax buildup can potentially increase the perception of tinnitus.

Maintaining proper ear hygiene and seeking professional care for earwax removal, is essential to navigate the challenges of tinnitus that can be caused by a blockage of the ear canal.

Remember, if tinnitus persists despite addressing earwax issues, further evaluation by a healthcare professional is recommended to explore other underlying causes and treatment options. Find out more about how hearing aids help with tinnitus.

What's Next?

Whether you've recently started experiencing tinnitus or have been dealing with it for a long time, we're committed to helping you find relief and live your best life. The first step on your journey to relief is to take the Tinnitus Assessment. This will help us understand your specific needs and recommend a treatment option that is evidence-based and tailored for you. There is hope, and we're here to guide you.

Find the Tinnitus Treatment that works for you

Take the Tinnitus Assessment