That there is a right way to clean your ears proposes that there is a wrong way, and without a doubt, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is customary, and it breaks the very first rule of cleaning your ears: don’t insert foreign objects into your ear canal. That includes cotton swabs and any other item that will likely only force the earwax up against the eardrum, possibly causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum injury.
So what should you be doing to clean your ears under ordinary circumstances? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t looking for something more profound). Your ears are designed to be self-cleansing, and the normal movements of your jaw drive earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you attempt to remove it, your ear just produces more wax.
And earwax is necessary, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. In fact, over-cleaning the ears can cause dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. So, for the majority of people the majority of of the time, nothing is required other than normal bathing to wash the outer ear.
But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are times in which people do produce too much earwax or excess earwax impacts the eardrum. In scenarios like these, you will need to clean out your ears. Here’s how:
Cleaning your ears at home
We’ll say it again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the sensitive skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and certainly no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA issued a warning against using them, declaring that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can induce serious injuries.)
To properly clean your ears at home, take the following actions:
- Buy earwax softening solution at the drugstore or make some at home. Directions for making the solution can be found online, and the solution often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
- Pour the solution into your ears from the bowl or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and let the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
- Empty the solution out of your ear by tilting your head gradually over a bowl or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pressed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t force the cotton ball into your ear.)
- Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to dislodge any loose earwax.
When not to clean your ears at home
Cleaning your ears at home could be unsafe in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you experience any symptoms such as fever, lightheadedness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to consult your doctor or hearing specialist. Additionally, repeated attempts at self cleaning that fail may suggest a more severe blockage that will require professional cleaning.
Medical doctors and hearing specialists apply a variety of medicines and devices to rapidly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be stronger than the homemade versions, and devices called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.
When in doubt, leave it to the experts. You’ll get the assurance that you’re not causing damage to your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying issues or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.
If you have any further questions or wish to set up an appointment, give us a call today! And keep in mind, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a routine professional checkup every 6 months.