Is Excessive Ear Wax Caused By Sleep Apnea?

I read recently read in Your Jaws, Your life (by Dr. David C. Page) that ear wax production was related to obstructive sleep apnea. I never thought about it in this way, since ear wax is thought to be a normal process. But in retrospect, I have many people with sleep-breathing problems that make extremely excessive ear wax. Some even have to come in once monthly to take out a plug the size of the end of your pinky. 
Here’s one possible explanation: Any degree of sleep-breathing problems can cause an imbalance in your involuntary nervous system. This is what controls your blood pressure, heart rate, sleep, sweating, temperature regulation, digestion, and other important body functions. It’s divided into the sympathetic (stress, fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic (relaxation response) nervous systems. I’ve described situations where due to relatively too much of a stress response, you can have cold hands or feet, or chronic diarrhea. 
Sweating is activated by the sympathetic nervous system. Ear wax is a modified form of sweat, since the glands have similar origins. Think of it as a dried form of sweat. If for whatever reason, if your sympathetic nervous system is over-activated, then you can "sweat" excessively in certain parts of your body, and this can happen on one or both sides. 
This would make for an interesting study: Can CPAP for OSA lessen ear wax production?

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11 thoughts on “Is Excessive Ear Wax Caused By Sleep Apnea?

  1. My 5 year old son has an excessive amount of earwax and mild to moderate GERD-induced OSA. My question about the earwax is this: Can the excess amount be a response to the increased acid refluxing into that area? The reason I’m wondering this is that his dad also has significant GERD and when he’s having a flare up, he will complain with ear pain and blame it on the the “acid”. Hmmm…..

  2. Heather, there’s no direct connection between the ear canal (where wax is made) and the throat/nose area that connects to the middle ears. When you have reflux, it can irritate the throat, which can be perceived as ear pain. Direct acid exposure to the eustachian tube opening in the back of the nose can also lead to discomfort and pain.

  3. I have only just made the connection with making excessive ear wax and sweating at night. I have over the last couple of years been very hot at night due to menopause, and I have been several times per year to the doctor to remove ear wax. I started HRT last year and the excessive ear wax stopped. Recently I have experienced some night sweats and the ear wax is back! I had a holiday in the Bahamas when humidity was extremely high, and I had to visit the doctor there because both ears became blocked. Now it makes sense. I have never read about the connection on any websites about menopause.

  4. Janet,

    Thanks for your response. Hot flashes and night sweats are a common response to sleep-breathing changes during menopause. I’ve written extensively about the connection between menopause, night sweats, and obstructive sleep apnea in the past. These symptoms are neurologic, vasomotor effects that can happen even in young men who are slowly gaining weight.

  5. Hi, after a google search I stumbled upon this interesting article.
    For year I have been suffering from excessive sweating that’s not related to exercise, I can change a light bulb or build a flat pack set of draws and sweat heavily.
    I also produce large amounts of ear wax and regulary have my ear cleaned out.

    My digestion system always seems out of sorts with a throat obstruction which I’ve had a camera down which thankfully found nothing! Also suffer from diarrhea, I have tried changing my eating habits but this has made no difference.
    I also have regular heat rashes all over my body and also not sure if it’s related but over the past couple of months have devloped alopecia.

    I can’t help but think these symptoms are linked in some way to the sympathetic nervious systen or sleep apnia as I never awake feeling refreshed and my partner tells me I groan in my sleep??????

    Im 43 yr old male, slightly over weight, generally happy in life, but find the sweating quite embarrasing especially at work as I work with the general public.
    Just one note, my GP has put me on Fluxetine for panic like attacks when driving on a motorway which seems to help.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind Regards

  6. Chris,

    Sympathetic overload and vasomotor symptoms are expected when you’re not getting efficient sleep. You may wish to see your doctor regarding a possible sleep study. Good luck.

  7. I have a long on-going story here, but will make it short.
    I’ve been having issues of sleep for a while (about 4-5 years now) and I only found it to be OSA after reading Dr.Steven’s book. When I was reading the book, I could clearly connect all the dots and today I connected one more dot. At the very time when I had sleep breathing issues started, I also started having “extremely” excessive DRY ear wax ever since!! That was a bingo for the umpteenth number of time since I first discovered Steven’s work!!

  8. I believe that chronic snoring contributes to ear wax build up. A natural function of the body to protect the ears from continuous decibels of noise.

  9. I am 34 years old with severe sleep apnea. Even when I wear my cpap mask and have just a sheet covering me and ac on I always wake up in a pile of cold damp sweat. If I do snore I don’t hear it because of the mask. Also it feels as if my ear has sweat built up in it too and it is full of wax, which I q tip out best I can.

  10. Any thoughts on a patient with no notable history of earwax who begins to find it bothersome (quantity of wax and clogged ear feeling) AFTER using oral appliance (Mandibular Advancement Device)?

  11. Just diagnosed with sleep apnea (had it for years) and will be getting my cpap (actually bypap) soon.

    What is strange is I have the opposite problem. In my 20’s I had excessive earwax and then suddenly it stopped…completely. I have not had any noticeable ear wax for about 20 years (and it’s horrible as my ears are painfully dry and itchy). I was actually hoping to stumble upon news that earwax may start once I get my breathing apparatus.

    Any thoughts on why earwax would suddenly stop? Haven’t found a doctor that has an idea of why this has occurred.