Blockage of the outer ear canal from a build up of ear wax is one of the most common reasons for temporary hearing loss. Naturally, if you have experienced this or believe that a buildup of ear wax might be causing some reduced hearing, you want to clean out your ears. Although this is a normal wish, it is vital that you know how to clean your ears safely, without causing damage to your hearing or to the sensitive tissues of your ear.

For that reason, when sharing this write-up of tips, it’s a good idea to start with a reminder of things not to do. Never stick any foreign objects in your ear. Regardless of whether it’s a cotton swab or other object, you are more likely to make the condition worse by further compressing the ear wax if you go poking around in your ear. Another thing you should never do is use any gadget that sprays pressurized water (such as a WaterPik) directly into your ears; doing this risks rupturing your ear drums. Finally, if you’re sure that you have a punctured ear drum, leave cleaning your ears to a specialist. The same is true if you think you have an ear infection. Symptoms of ear infections include fever, vomiting or diarrhea, fluid draining from the ears and ear pain.

For gentle and effective ear cleaning at home, get a syringe or bulb at the pharmacy and a special rinse solution. Buy the rinse solution (usually carbamide peroxide) at a drug store or blend your own solution by combining equal parts 3-4%, glycerin and mineral oil.

To use it, lay on your side with a towel underneath you or lean over a basin or sink and carefully squeeze the carbamide peroxide solution into one ear, without actually touching the inside of the ear with the syringe or bulb. Allow the solution to linger in your ear for a couple minutes (or, if you use hydrogen peroxide, until you no longer hear bubbling), and then repeat for the other ear.

After the wax has been loosened and softened by the solution, wash each ear once again with lukewarm (not hot) water, and then dry the outer ears gently with a soft towel. You can repeat this procedure twice daily for 2 to 3 days if your ears still feel clogged. If the issue still persist, call your an audiologist or hearing specialist.