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Earwax build-up

Earwax normally just falls out on its own. When it's blocking your ears, a pharmacist can help.

Symptoms of earwax build-up

Symptoms of earwax build-up include:

  • hearing loss
  • earache or a feeling that your ears are blocked
  • ringing or buzzing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • vertigo (feeling dizzy and sick)

How you can treat earwax build-up yourself

Earwax usually falls out on its own. If it does not, and builds up and blocks your ear, you can try to remove it.

To remove earwax build-up:

  1. Lie on your side with the affected ear facing up.
  2. Put 2 to 3 drops of olive or almond oil in your ear – do not use almond oil if you're allergic to almonds.
  3. Continue to lie on your side for 5 to 10 minutes after putting in the oil.
  4. Repeat 3 to 4 times a day, for 3 to 5 days.

Over about 2 weeks, lumps of earwax should fall out of your ear and your symptoms should improve.

There's no evidence that ear candles or ear vacuums get rid of earwax.


Do not use your fingers or any objects like cotton buds to remove earwax. This will push it in and make it worse.

A pharmacist can help with earwax build-up

Speak to a pharmacist about earwax build-up. They can give advice and suggest treatments.

They might recommend medicines to dissolve the earwax. The earwax should fall out on its own or dissolve after about a week.

Do not use drops if you have a hole in your eardrum (a perforated eardrum).

Non-urgent advice: See a nurse at your GP surgery if:

  • you have symptoms of ear wax build-up which have not cleared after 5 days
  • your ear is badly blocked and you cannot hear anything (you could get an infection if it has not cleared)

GP surgery treatment to remove earwax

Not all GP surgeries remove earwax build-up.

Some can:

  • flush the wax out with water (ear irrigation)
  • suck the wax out (microsuction)

These treatments are usually painless.

You might have to pay to have them done privately.

Causes of earwax build-up

A build-up of earwax can happen if you have:

  • narrow or damaged ear canals
  • lots of hair in your ear canals
  • a skin condition affecting your scalp or around your ear
  • inflammation of your ear canal (otitis externa or "swimmer's ear")

Preventing earwax build-up

You cannot prevent earwax. It's there to protect your ears from dirt and germs.

But regularly using eardrops, or olive or almond oil, will help soften earwax build-up. This will help it fall out on its own and should stop your ears getting blocked.

Page last reviewed: 05 January 2024
Next review due: 05 January 2027