Cerumen impaction

Am Fam Physician. 2007 May 15;75(10):1523-8.


Cerumen is a naturally occurring, normally extruded product of the external auditory canal. It is usually asymptomatic, but when it becomes impacted it can cause complications such as hearing loss, pain, or dizziness. It also can interfere with examination of the tympanic membrane. Depending on available equipment, physician skill, and patient circumstances, treatment options for cerumen impaction include watchful waiting, manual removal, the use of ceruminolytic agents, and irrigation with or without ceruminolytic pretreatment. The overall quality of the evidence on treatment is limited. Referral to an otolaryngologist for further evaluation is indicated if treatment with a ceruminolytic agent followed by irrigation is ineffective, if manual removal is not possible, if the patient develops severe pain or has vertigo during irrigation, or if hearing loss is still present after cerumen has been removed. The use of cotton swabs and ear candles should be avoided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerumen* / metabolism
  • Curettage / methods
  • Ear Canal*
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Hearing Loss / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surface-Active Agents / administration & dosage
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods


  • Surface-Active Agents