How Do I Clean My Ears?

As audiologists, we often get asked “How do I clean my ears?” by patients. Many people do not know that your ear typically cleans itself! Earwax, or cerumen, is a self-cleaning agent meant to protect and lubricate your ear canal. Glands in your ear canal produce this substance to trap dirt and dust particles so they do not make their way to your eardrum. The earwax naturally migrates out of your ear with jaw movements, such as chewing or talking.  Different factors can impact how much earwax a person produces (e.g. genetics, medications).

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When a cerumen impaction occurs, it is typically due to the patient using Q-tips or other objects to clean their ears. But, in reality this typically just inhibits the natural migration of the earwax and pushes it down deeper into the ear canal! Symptoms of a cerumen impaction include decreased hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), itchiness, or a plugged feeling in the ears.

There are safe methods to help remove the earwax from your ears, if there is a buildup. Patients can place a few drops of mineral oil, a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, or commercial wax softeners into the ear over the course of a few days. If a deep impaction has occurred, softening the wax alone will most likely not remove all of the wax and the individual will need to have the cerumen extracted. Licensed medical providers have the ability to manually remove earwax. Different methods of extraction include suction, water irrigation, or curette removal. The method used varies depending on the condition of their ear and the amount of wax. Consult a physician if you believe that you have a cerumen impaction.

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Ears

Earwax, or cerumen, is a naturally occurring substance in the ear canal that protects against bacteria, fungi, and insects. The earwax naturally migrates out of the ear canal, but can build-up over time. An excessive build-up can cause you to notice a decrease in hearing.

If you have turned on a television or opened a magazine, you have most likely seen some form of earwax removal tool being advertised. The products range from wax candles to devices that attempt to flush the wax from your ears. The most commonly used tool is, of course, the Q-tip.  It can be hard to decide when it is time to remove wax and what the safest way is to remove it.  It is important to reiterate that a little earwax is natural and constant cleaning of the ears is unnecessary. You should never stick or jab anything into the ear canal. At best, you may push the earwax deeper into your ear. At worst, you may earn yourself a trip to the doctor with a punctured eardrum.

Safe options for keeping your ears clean:

-Use wax removal tools around the outer ear, but never enter the ear canal

-Over-the-counter wax softeners, such as Debrox

-Visit your healthcare professional for removal.

If you have further questions, you can schedule an appointment at the Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute by calling (904) 399-0350.