The composition of ear wax varies widely from person to person, from young to old, and from one race/ethnicity to the next. However, one thing holds true, and that is ear wax in old age either increases due to the amount of hair growing out of the ear canal or it hardens, blocking up your ears and preventing you from hearing properly. Worst of all, you may think you need hearing aids when in fact you may just need cleaner ears. A visit to an audiologist will help you determine exactly what you need to do.
Checking for Wax Problems
The audiologist will examine your ears with an otoscope first. If you have hairy ears, the audiologist may trim back the hair in order to get a better look. Excess hair creates more oil, sweat, and dead skin cells, which are the primary components in ear wax. (You could also use a personal grooming tool to trim back some of the hair, but do not insert the trimmer into your ears, as you may either injure your inner ears or potentially shove more of the wax inside.) If the audiologist finds that wax build-up is due to the amount of hair in your ears, he or she may clean and clear out your ears before performing any hearing tests.
Hardened wax with minimal hair present blocks sound from traveling to your ear drum. During the exam, the audiologist may note the size and consistency of a ball of hard wax in one or both ears. When excess hair does not contribute to the excess of wax, then the elderly ear tends to ball it up and dry it out. The ball gets stuck, and only an audiologist or your general physician should get it out.
Ear Wax Problems and Hearing Aids
When your audiologist finds that you have a hearing problem, you will be prescribed hearing aids. Given that you have already established a problem with ear wax, your audiologist will suggest preventive measures that will help your hearing aids work better, e.g., keeping your ears clean, trimming back ear hair, using drops of baby oil to flush out hard wax, nightly cleaning of your hearing aids, etc. Because your ear wax problems also affect how well your hearing aids help you hear, you should follow your doctor's orders and recommendations so the hearing aids will not need constant repair. For more information, talk to a place like Cape May County Hearing Aid Dispensary.