Complications of earwax build-up 

There are several complications that can occur as a result of impacted earwax or ear irrigation.

An ear infection may develop if you have untreated impacted earwax (earwax that's firmly lodged in your ear canal).

If your earwax touches your eardrum, it may cause discomfort and vertigo (the feeling that you're moving even though you're still).

The following complications have been reported from patients after having ear irrigation:

Light bleeding may sometimes occur, which usually stops on its own. You may also experience nausea, vomiting and vertigo because of variations in the temperature of the irrigating fluid.

Rarely (about 1 in 1,000 irrigations) serious complications can occur. These are described below.

Severe infection

In rare cases, infection may progress to the base of the skull and cause cranial paralysismeningitis (infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain) and even death.

The elderly, people with diabetes and those with a weak immune system are most likely to be affected.

Chronic tinnitus

Long-term (chronic) tinnitus can sometimes occur following earwax removal or ear irrigation. However, this is also very rare.

Page last reviewed: 10/03/2014

Next review due: 10/03/2016