Do you find yourself having trouble hearing due to earwax buildup? An excess of earwax can make hearing difficult and become a nuisance. Cleaning your ears can sometimes cause more problems than it’s worth.
Cerumen, also known as earwax, is like a self-cleaning oven. Your body produces it to collect dirt, bacteria and other debris. The wax works its way out of the ears naturally through jaw motions such as chewing. Many people never need to clean to clean their ears. Impaction is when your earwax reaches the level of build-up that affects your hearing.
If you do have impaction, you may experience:
- Aching in the affected ear
- Fullness or ringing in the ear
- Impaired hearing in the affected ear
- An odor coming from the affected ear
- A cough
If you wear hearing aids or ear plugs, you may be more likely to develop excess wax. Older adults with developmental disabilities are also at a higher risk of developing excess earwax. Your ear canal’s shape may also make the natural removal of wax difficult.
Here a few tips on how to safely clean your ears, how not to clean your ears and when it’s time to see a doctor.
Try using a damp cloth. Cotton swabs may push wax deeper into your ear canal. Try wiping the area with a warm, damp washcloth. If you do use cotton swabs, only use them on the outside of your ear.
Use over-the-counter earwax softener. Many pharmacies sell an over-the-counter earwax softener that softens the wax. This softener is typically a solution that you drop into your ear. This softener may contain mineral oil, baby oil, peroxide, hydrogen peroxide or saline. Here’s how you use them:
- Lie sideways: Make sure the ear you’re cleaning is face up and add in the drops as directed.
- Give it time to sit: Allow the cleaning solution to sit in your ear for around five minutes. This lets the liquid soak in and soften things up.
- Grab a tissue: Once you sit up, the liquid should come out, along with the earwax that broke loose. Have a tissue ready to catch it all.
Use a syringe to irrigate your ears. This process entails gently rinsing out your ear canal using water or a saline solution. This method tends to be more effective if you use a wax softener 15 to 30 minutes before irrigating. Make sure you warm the solution before using it to avoid dizziness.
Ask your doctor to remove your earwax. If you’re still having issues, give your doctor a call. Your doctor can remove the wax in their office.
Things to avoid
It is common not to clean your ears. The wax usually takes care of itself. Do not use any small items like bobby pins, cotton swabs, or napkin corners. You may push your earwax deeper into your ear canal and cause harm.
Do not attempt to irrigate your ears if:
- You have diabetes
- You have a compromised immune system
- You may have a hole in your eardrum
- You have tubes in the affected ear
Avoid ear candles. The long, cone-shaped candles are inserted into the ear canal and then lit on fire to draw wax upward with suction. The fire can injure you or candle wax may fall inside your ear.
If you develop a blockage and leave it untreated, your symptoms can get worse and even cause hearing loss. Contact your doctor for a plan that is right for you.