Cleaning your ears properly can be tricky. Do you use a cotton swab? Or does that push the wax in further? Can it damage your ear drum? So many questions have arisen from the techniques people use to clean their ears, so it can be hard to separate fact from myth. If your ears are due for a cleaning, read on to find out the proper way to do so.
What Exactly Is Earwax?
Earwax is your ear’s natural way of protecting itself against foreign invaders such as dirt and bacteria. It’s made up of a combination of sebum, dead skin cells and cerumen, a wax-like substance that is produced by sweat glands. There are three types of ear wax:
- Soft wet earwax – typically found in children, this ear wax tends to feel sticky.
- Hard wet earwax – this type is more likely to become impacted in the ear and has a drier, firmer texture.
- Dry earwax – this earwax is flaky, golden in color and is most common in people from Asian countries.
Problems From Earwax
Earwax is very important for your inner ear. It keeps it moist and protected from water and infections. But it can also cause problems if not properly taken care of. Here are some of the common problems that earwax can cause:
- Ear canal blockage – Sometimes earwax can block the ear canal, which can be painful and may even impair hearing.
- Impacted earwax – If too much wax builds up in your ear, it can become impacted, especially if you push it farther in with a cotton swab. This can also impair hearing and needs to be taken care of immediately.
Ways To Safely Remove Earwax
Most of the time, earwax will actually fall out on its own, but it may need to be removed if an impression of your ear needs to be made for a hearing aid, or if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Hearing loss
But how exactly do you remove it? For starters, try ear drops. They can soften the wax, making it easier for the wax to fall out on its own. This treatment is usually prescribed by doctors as a first step in getting rid of an ear blockage, but is also effective in removing unwanted wax. Simply pour two to three drops in your ear and lie with that ear facing up so the drops can work their way into the wax. Repeat this process three to five times a day, depending on how much wax you need to remove.
If you’re having persistent trouble with earwax, you may need to get your ear irrigated. This procedure is painless and involves squirting a steady stream of warm water into your ear canal to remove the built-up wax. However, you should not try this procedure if you have a perforated ear drum, an ear infection or earache, or a cleft palate. Consult with your doctor before trying ear irrigation.
But these aren’t the only ways to get rid of earwax. Here are some other ways to have it removed:
- Microsuction – this procedure involves suctioning the wax out of the ear and may be slightly uncomfortable.
- Aural toilet – this is where a probe is manually inserted to remove the earwax.
If you don’t want to have to take drastic action for your earwax, try a home remedy to remove your earwax and prevent any problems it may cause.
- Use a wax softener. Olive oil, baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin and hydrogen peroxide can all soften wax, which makes it easier for it to fall out of the ear. Use an eyedropper or a bulb syringe to apply a few drops of the softener of your choice twice a day for up to four or five days.
- Try warm water. Using an eyedropper or bulb syringe, apply a few drops of warm water to your ear. Tilt your head back while pulling your ear up and back, to ensure that the ear canal is in a straight position. Apply the drops and let it sit for a few seconds. Then tilt your head to the side to let the ear drain, and wipe the outside of it with a washcloth. This procedure works well if you’ve already been softening the wax for a few days.
- Buy a removal kit. There are many earwax removal kits on the market that are safe to use at home. But you may want to consult with a doctor if you aren’t sure of which one to buy. If none of these remedies work, then you’ll also want to consult with a doctor on trying another removal procedure.
Now that you know how to remove earwax, you need to know how not to remove earwax. The biggest mistake people make when cleaning their ears is to use a cotton swab. This only pushes the wax further into the ear and can even perforate your ear drum if you shove the swab in too harshly or too deeply. So, the next time you feel the need to clean out your ears, drop the cotton-coated matchstick and try a safer, more effective treatment.