Earwax, also called cerumen, has numerous protective functions such as trapping dust and debris, serving as a moisture barrier and killing microorganisms that enter the ear canal.
In general, individuals should not attempt to remove the earwax by inserting objects such as cotton swabs, paper clips or hairpins into the ears. Earwax will most often move out of the ear naturally over time without any assistance. Impaction occurs when the wax builds up or becomes too hard to exit the ear canal naturally.
In general, removing impacted ear wax includes saline irrigations – a salt-water flush of the ear canal – or direct removal under an operating microscope. Once earwax is fully removed, a maintenance regimen of at-home ear irrigations may be required.