Cerumen (ear wax) impaction is a common cause of hearing loss. Ear wax buildup blocks the external ear canal resulting in a decreased ability to hear sounds, tones and frequencies. This condition affects people of all ages and is especially apparent in the elderly, as they often have additional reasons for difficulty with hearing.
Cerumen is a yellow, brown or gray waxy substance made up mostly of keratin (a protein), skin cells and cholesterol. In general, ear wax is believed to help lubricate and clean the outer ear. Some studies suggest that it may also aid in helping to prevent certain bacterial infections. Some individuals, however, overproduce this substance, resulting in undesirable side effects.