Cerumen is a word derived from the Latin word cera, or wax. It is perfectly normal to have cerumen in the ear canal. The cerumen serves to trap small particles that may try to enter the ear canal. Cerumen also contains acid that helps fight off infection and it also helps keep the canal from becoming too dry. In some patients, the cerumen does not move out of the ear properly because of overproduction or drying of the wax, or because of narrow canals or excessive hair. Cleaning the ears with cotton swabs may push the cerumen deeper into the canal. If you are concerned about excessive cerumen, please contact your primary care physician.
The first thing the audiologist should do before conducting a hearing test is to look in the ears to make sure the ear canals are not occluded with cerumen. Cerumen can often plug the sound outlets on hearing aids. It is important that patients wearing aids check their hearing aids each time they remove them to make sure they are not plugged with cerumen.