Earwax Removal

earwaxThere are safe ways to remove earwax and there are unsafe ways. Most of the time, you should let it come out of your ears naturally. Other ways can cause more problems than they solve.

Earwax builds up in the ear canal for a couple of reasons, to protect the inner ear from things outside the inner ear and to lubricate the skin of the inner ear. There are few reasons to purposely clean the inner ear, and the safe ways don’t involve putting objects in the ear canal.

The Safest Ways to Remove Earwax

Everyone has earwax in their ears. Normal jaw movements, when eating or talking, causes the excess to move out of the inner ear. Excess earwax that doesn’t come out can cause difficulties, like earaches.

The safest way to remove that excess earwax is by irrigating the inner ear with warm water and letting it drain out. It’s also the easiest way. You can do this yourself while taking a shower. Allow warm water to enter your ear canal, and then tilt your head the opposite direction to let it exit. If you’re doing it for someone else, especially a small child, you should use a bulb syringe or something you can use to inject the water into the ear canal. Not forcefully, of course.

Sometimes warm water isn’t enough, especially when the earwax is pushing up against the ear drum, causing an earache. By the way, earwax up against the ear drum is the number one cause of hearing loss.

If warm water doesn’t do the trick, you can use various oils like olive oil or mineral oil. Even then, you should follow it up by rinsing it out with warm water. You don’t want the oil to stay inside your ear any more than the excess earwax. Hydrogen peroxide is another fluid that softens the earwax enough to make it come out of the ear canal. This is one method you can’t do by yourself.

The Unsafe Ways

A common way to remove earwax is by using cotton swabs (also called cotton buds), with Q-Tips being the most popular brand. This is unsafe on so many levels, it’s ridiculous. Now, there’s nothing wrong with using cotton swabs to dig out the crud from the crevices of the outer ear. The danger comes from sticking the tip into the inner ear. Cotton swabs can only remove a layer or two. They can push the remaining earwax further into the ear canal and up against the ear drum.

Another way that some people swear by is ear candles. If you disregard how they’re used, it still doesn’t make sense to put those objects into your ear canals. I’ve never met anyone who’s ever used this technique. Most ear doctors will tell you to never insert anything solid into your ear canal. The exception is a medical instrument they use.

Large Earwax Chunks

There are times when large chunks of earwax form in the ear canal, which won’t come out using any method other than physically removing them with medical instruments. I have a sister-in-law in the Philippines, with six children, who regularly inspects their ears. If she sees chunks of earwax, she uses something like what an ear doctor would use to remove them. It looks kind of like large tweezers, with a small scoop on one end.

This method of removal should only be performed when no other safe method will work. Even then, you need to use extreme caution. If you don’t want to take any chances at all, have it done by an ear doctor.

Image by Gregory F. Maxwell <gmaxwell@gmail.com> PGP:0xB0413BFA, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

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