Earwax occurs naturally and will often come out on its own. When it's blocking your ears, self-management can help.

How you can treat earwax build-up yourself

Self Management of earwax - a patient guide from the Welsh Governement.


Don't use your fingers or any objects like cotton buds to remove earwax. This will push it in and make it worse. It can also damage your ear canal, and even cause perforation of the ear drum.

Earwax often comes out on its own. If it doesn't and it blocks your ear, put three drops of olive oil in your ear once a day for seven days.

A pharmacist can help with earwax build-up

Speak to a pharmacist about earwax build-up. They can give advice and suggest treatments including the use of olive oil ear drops to help to remove the earwax. Olive oil drops can also be purchased from supermarkets and health and beauty retailers.

Use the dropper while lying your head on one side for a few minutes to let the oil work its way through your ear canal(s).

You may find it easier to do this first thing in the morning or just before you go to sleep.

Over time, earwax should soften and come out of your ear, especially at night when you're lying down.

Ear candles and wax removal devices are not effective at treating problematic ear wax, and they can cause serious injuries. Do not purchase or use these.

After about a week, the earwax should soften and come out on its own, or move so it no longer blocks your ear.

Don't use drops if:

  • You have past history of hole in your eardrum (a perforated eardrum)
  • You have sudden or rapid hearing loss
  • You have significant pain or discharge from your ears
  • You have had an ear infection in the last six weeks
  • You have a history of cleft palate or ear surgery
  • You have ever been advised by a healthcare professional to avoid getting water in your ear.

If you are in one of the above groups please contact your GP for advice.

Preventing earwax build-up

You can't prevent ear wax. It's there to protect your ears from dirt and germs.

But you can keep using ear drops to soften the wax. This will help it come out on its own and should prevent blocked ears.

Causes of earwax

Some of the reasons you may have ear wax build-up include:

  • You may just have more wax in your ears – some people do naturally
  • You may have hairy or narrow canals (the tubes that link the eardrum and outer ear)
  • As you get older, wax gets harder and more difficult to fall out
  • You work in a dusty environment
  • You wear hearing aids, earplugs and other things you put in your ear – these can push the wax further in

How to tell if your ear is blocked with earwax

You can have:

  • Earache
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • An ear infection
  • Your ear feeling blocked or full
  • Sounds such as high-pitched tones coming from inside the ear (tinnitus)

Once you have performed self-management, these symptoms usually improve. If they don't, contact your local health board for advice on booking an NHS Wales appointment to have your ears examined and appropriately treated.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 13/03/2023 13:55:28