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Earwax Removal Tips



The ear is a delicate, self-cleaning organ that helps you to hear and analyze sounds. It consists of the outer, middle, and inner ear, the ear canal, and ear drum. This organ produces earwax to clean away germs, microorganisms, dust, and other fine particles that may lodge in the ear. There is generally no need to manually clean the ears, except in cases where an overproduction of wax results in a buildup or blockage. In this case, care should be taken when cleaning the ears to avoid making the problem worse or damaging the eardrum.

What is earwax?

Cerumen, commonly called earwax, is a waxy oil produced in the ear canal. This sticky, gooey substance may appear gross to some people, but it functions to protect the ear and prevent health problems. Wax usually accumulates, dries, and falls out of the ear on its own. But wax may sometimes back up and cause itching of the ear. This may tempt you to grab a cotton swab or foreign object to relieve the itch or clear the blocked ear. During cleaning, you can accidentally push wax deeper into the ear and cause a blockage which can lead to certain health problems. This is in addition to the risk of perforating the ear drum or lining of the inner ear.

Health problems caused by earwax buildup

• Earache
• Ear infections
Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
• Vertigo (a spinning sensation)
Hearing loss

Safely cleaning your ears at home

Studies show that cleaning the ears unnecessarily is the main reason why overproduction of wax occurs. Some people have a tendency to use their fingers or foreign objects such as a cotton swab, bobby pin, or paper clip to remove the waxy substance. If you or a family member notices your ear produces wax rather quickly, you can prevent complications by cleaning your ears using these simple home remedies. Note that these self-care remedies do not apply to people whose ear has a hole or a tube in it.

• Soften the wax:

Apply a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, coconut oil, glycerin, or hydrogen peroxide to the ear with a bulb dropper. Drip 6-10 drops of hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before draining the affected ear. Repeat daily until wax softens and falls out, but for no more than 3-10 days. Drip warmed oil (not hot) into the ear in a similar manner and repeat twice a day.

• Flush the ear:

Use a rubber-bulb syringe to squirt warm water into the ear to flush the softened wax out. You may also irrigate the ear using warm water while showering. Tilt your head to the side to allow the water to drain. Irrigation can be done for 5-10 minutes per day.

• Dry the ear canal:

Dry the ear with a clean towel or hand-held dryer. You may need to repeat the softening, irrigation, and drying steps a few times to successfully remove the wax.

Caution:

To prevent ear damage or hearing loss, never attempt to remove excessive or hardened earwax using a cotton bud, hairpin, or paper clip. Never use ear candles since they can cause burns or puncture the eardrum. Ear vacuums are also not recommended to treat a blocked ear.

Talk to a pharmacist

If you’re not sure how to remove wax on your own or there’s too much wax buildup, you can speak with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist may recommend ear drops to soften the wax and make it fall out. He or she can help you decide which type of ear drop is right for you since it may contain substances that can irritate the skin. Over-the-counter ear cleaning kits are also available.

When to see a doctor

To protect the ear, earwax may be more safely and effectively removed by your doctor. This is especially important when dealing with excessive earwax or blocked ears in children. You or your child should see a doctor if symptoms do not improve, become worse, or you experience pain, bleeding, or hearing loss. Common treatments used by a doctor to clean the ear are ear drops, ear irrigation, microsuction, and aural toilet.

The takeaway

It is normal for the ear to produce wax. In most cases, cleaning away the wax can hurt more than it helps. If it becomes necessary to clean your ear from time to time, you should do so in a safe manner to avoid damaging your ear or causing loss of hearing.

Have you already discovered our previous blogpost related to Earwax? If not, check out our blogpost dealing with the topic “Does Earwax Damage Hearing Aids?”