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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Cerumen Impaction

June 2017 | Shaza Khan, DO - Family Medicine Resident, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital

What is cerumen? Cerumen impaction?

Cerumen is ear wax. Cerumen impaction is the buildup of ear wax causing a blockage in your ear canal.

What are the signs and symptoms of cerumen impaction?

Ear fullness, hearing loss, ringing in your ears, ear pain, dizziness.

What can cause cerumen impaction?

Hearing aids or ear plug use, excessive cotton swab use, and old age can lead to cerumen impaction. It is common in people with Down syndrome due to a tendency towards smaller, curved ear canals.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can examine inside your ear using a medical instrument called an otoscope. He/she can assess for the buildup of wax using the otoscope.

Who is more prone to getting it?

Older adults, persons with a developmental disability, persons with frequent use of hearing aids and/or ear plugs.

Treatment Options

At home

You can use a solution called carbamide peroxide to soften the hardened wax and allow it to be easily removed from the outer ear with a cotton swab. Carbamide peroxide can be found in several over-the-counter ear drops.

Especially if you have a hole (perforation) or a tube in your eardrum, speak to your health care provider before using ear drops.

Other at-home options include baby oil, almond oil, and diluted hydrogen peroxide. The providers at the Adult Down Syndrome Center typically recommend baby oil over diluted hydrogen peroxide because diluted hydrogen peroxide can be drying.

At the doctor’s office

Ear lavage - Healthcare providers can use a warm water solution or hydrogen peroxide solution to soften the cerumen and flush your ear canals.


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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.