Blocked ears is one of the most common reasons people present for hearing-related problems. Normally, the earwax is part of a self-cleaning process, but in 10 percent of young children, 20 percent of adults and more than 30 percent of the elderly, the wax collects and is not expelled. Up to two-thirds of people in nursing homes may suffer from a condition in which earwax collects to a point where it can completely block the ear canal. Impacted earwax is particularly problematic for those with dementia as it exacerbates hearing loss, which then impedes communication and increases aggression and other difficult behavior.
In 2016, the U.S. federal Medicare program paid for nearly 1.7 million earwax removal services. Excessive earwax is responsible for nearly 12 million visits to a health care provider each year, including 8 million who require removal in the office.