What is ear wax?

Ear wax is produced naturally by tiny glands in the ear canal, and normally forms a thin film as part of the ear’s natural cleaning system. Ear wax is important for keeping our ears healthy and clean, protecting against infection.


Excess ear wax is normally lost from the ear almost unnoticed, for example when sleeping or towelling our hair. Problems arise when the ear produces too much wax, which can build-up and harden in the ear.


Build-up or hardening of ear wax can make our ears feel blocked and uncomfortable. It can sometimes cause difficulty in hearing. In severe cases, the ear canal can become painful, with temporary hearing loss, dizziness and loss of balance as a result. When this occurs, the ear may need syringing by a medical professional.


Anyone can suffer from problematic ear wax, but it’s more common among people aged 40+. The good news is that it’s usually simple and painless to treat, and is certainly nothing to worry about.


When ears feel waxy or blocked, there is a temptation to reach for cotton buds but this should be resisted; they will only make the condition worse by impacting and pushing the wax further in. Using cotton buds may also cause serious damage to the ear.

Other Ear Problems


Tinnitus is often described as 'ringing in the ear.' It can affect one or both ears and may be due to several causes, including damage to hearing or a build-up of wax. Avoiding the build-up of ear wax can help prevent tinnitus, as can avoiding exposure to loud noise. If tinnitus occurs, it's important to talk to your doctor in order to establish the cause.


Outer ear infection or Otitis externa: An inflammatory condition of the outer ear canal, which can have a variety of causes. It can be extremely painful and hearing may be affected. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you have ear pain or inflammation.

Middle ear infections or Otitis media: these are common in infants and young children and can be acute or chronic:

  • Acute Otitis media is usually short lasting, and often follows a cold. The symptoms are severe earache and sometimes fever, nausea and vomiting or loss of sleep.
  • Chronic Otitis media is less painful but can last longer. It can result from a burst eardrum which hasn't healed completely.
  • Glue ear (Otitis media with effusion) results from chronic inflammation of the middle ear and an accumulation of fluid. It is common but often goes unrecognised, due to a lack of obvious symptoms. The usual feature is hearing loss. It's important to have this checked in order to get appropriate treatment and to rule out other problems.
  • If you suspect an ear infection, you should take your child to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

For more useful information, check the NHS website

The Otex product range

Want to treat problem ear wax?

See the range

Frequently asked questions

The Otex range consists of five Otex products, to give you a choice of simple, effective ways to help treat problematic ear wax.

Do not use your fingers or any objects like cotton buds to remove ear wax. This can push it in and make it worse. Ear wax usually falls out on its own. If it does not and blocks your ear the Otex range can be used to help treat. There's no evidence that ear candles or ear vacuums get rid of ear wax.

A build-up of ear wax can happen if:

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

When your ears become blocked, it's no longer possible to equalize pressure in the ear and maintain balance in your body. These middle-ear disturbances can cause symptoms of dizziness in people with allergies, colds, and sinus infections. Light-headedness may also be a symptom of allergies.