You probably know that it’s wrong to put a cotton swab in your ear, but do you do it anyway? There are better ways to deal with earwax, both at home and with the help of a medical professional.

Risky Business

The ear can easily be damaged with aggressive home cleaning. You should never put anything in your ears: not swabs, not hairpins, not a twist of fabric. These techniques can injure sensitive tissues and even rupture your eardrum.

Putting anything in your ear tends to compact earwax—also called cerumen—leading to more hearing problems, not less.

Understanding earwax

It may be a surprise, but earwax is actually a good thing. It protects your ears from materials like dust and shedding skin cells. These particles are trapped by the wax and then are pushed out of the ear canal by jaw movement. Too little earwax can actually result in dry, uncomfortable ears.

Professional cleaning

Some people never need a professional cleaning. However, others with excessive earwax production or narrow ear canals benefit greatly from medical assessment and earwax removal. An impacted ear canal can be both a hearing problem and a source of pain or discomfort.

A doctor should examine your ears when you experience:

  • Partial hearing loss
  • Ringing or noises in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Earache
  • A plugged feeling
  • Odor or discharge
  • Itching

To remove earwax, a hearing specialist will use specialized instruments, a microscope, and suction. Special care needs to be taken if you have narrow ear canals, diabetes or a weak immune system.

Approved Home Care

After a professional cleaning, you can help keep your ears clean with the right methods. Home treatments to soften and remove wax include:

  • Oil or glycerin drops
  • Commercial ear drops 
  • Detergent drops (including hydrogen peroxide)
  • Irrigation
  • Syringing

Irrigation should be done with solutions warmed to body temperature to prevent dizziness. If you suspect a perforated eardrum or have medical issues complicating ear cleaning, consult with your doctor instead.

Don’t be tempted to try ear candles, which are not recommended for ear cleaning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that these products can result in injuries.

Excessive earwax is a common problem. If you repeatedly experience impacted earwax, periodic cleanings at Hearing Associates will prevent hearing problems and discomfort. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.