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Earwax Removal Ears

Excessive Ear Wax? Doctors Say Don't Use Cotton Swabs For Ear Cleaning

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Do you find yourself having trouble hearing due to a buildup of ear wax? An excess of ear wax can make hearing difficult and become a nuisance. Cerumen, also known as earwax, is produced by your body. It helps clean, protect and lubricate the external auditory canal. Usually, the wax works its way out of the ears naturally, including through jaw motions such as chewing. Many people never need to clean their ears. Impaction is when your ear wax builds up causing a variety of problems, including:

  • Impaired hearing in the affected ear
  • Aching in the affected ear
  • Fullness or ringing in the ear
  • An odor coming from the affected ear
  • Dizziness or a sensation of imbalance
  • 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. The shape of your ear canal 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 removing earwax by wiping the area with a warm, damp washcloth. Do NOT try to use cotton swabs. Cotton swabs may push wax deeper into your ear canal. Also, try an over-the-counter earwax softener. You can find this at most pharmacies. 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 on your side making sure the ear you’re cleaning is face up and add in the drops as directed.
  • Allow the cleaning solution to sit in your ear as directed on the bottle. This lets the liquid soak in and soften the wax.
  • Grab a tissue. Once you sit up, the liquid should come out, along with the earwax that has loosened.

If these steps don't seem to help, don't hesitate to contact your doctor. They may be able to remove the wax in their office or can refer you to a specialist who can. 

Things to avoid

Do not use any small items like bobby pins, safety pins, cotton swabs (Q-Tips) or napkin corners. You may push your earwax deeper into your ear canal causing further 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 the wax upward with suction. The fire can injure you or candle wax may fall inside your ear.

When in doubt, contact your doctor for a plan that is right for you.

To learn more about Dr. Madrecha, or to make an appointment, click here

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