Ear wax is a natural component of our bodies that serves to protect ear canals and eardrums from dust, bacteria, and other foreign particles that might enter. But sometimes its buildup becomes problematic and needs professional removal in order to continue protecting our ears properly.
Doctors use various tools, including manual or irrigation methods, to safely extract impacted earwax. You can take steps before your appointment to prepare and reduce discomfort during this procedure.
1. Clean Your Ears
Ear wax (cerumen) is an integral component of your body’s self-cleaning system and serves a crucial function lubricating your ears while flushing bacteria out. Although you should never insert anything smaller than an elbow into your ear canal for cleaning purposes, many people resort to cotton swabs, bobby pins or napkin corners when cleaning their ears, which could actually push more earwax deeper into their canal and create blockages.
If you find that you have an excess of earwax build-up, consulting your audiologist is often the most efficient way to have it removed safely using a bulb syringe. There may also be techniques you can try at home that soften it more readily so removal becomes simpler.
One approach is to combine equal parts hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. You will want to fill a small glass cup with this solution before tilting your head sideways as you insert droplets of it into your ear canal. This should soften up any hardened earwax so it is easier for removal with either your fingernail or cotton swab.
Another method involves placing several drops of mineral oil, baby oil or glycerin into your ears to soften any wax accumulations. Once in, leave for several minutes before gently wiping away. However, be wary not to overdo this technique as too much wax could lead to an infection in your ear canal.
Irrigation can also be used safely at home to remove earwax, but only when your ears feel dry. Otherwise, it could irritate and inflame the ear canal as well as damage your eardrum if done incorrectly.
Ear candles should also be avoided as an alternative method of earwax removal, since their long, cone-shaped candle flames are inserted into the ear canal and lit on fire to “draw up” wax by suction, potentially leading to burns and punctured eardrums. Speak with an audiologist about other ways you can keep your ears healthy.
2. Wear Your Hearing Aids
Ear wax serves an invaluable purpose for our bodies; it serves as a natural self-cleaning mechanism, deterring dirt and bacteria from entering our ear canals while cleaning them out. However, too much wax can become problematic; too much can lead to infections, earaches or even hearing loss if left undisturbed for too long – thus it’s vitally important that individuals understand how to safely remove earwax from their ears.
DIY attempts at extracting earwax with cotton swabs, hairpins or paper clips may lead to serious injury to both the delicate lining of your ear canal and eardrum. Furthermore, doing this often causes more solidified earwax deposits that make removal even harder.
As you prepare for an ear wax removal appointment, wear your hearing aids. Apply a drop of mineral oil into the ear canal prior to your appointment in order to soften any wax build-up in advance of its removal. Even without hearing aids, however, you can still prepare by wiping down both outer ear canal and surrounding area with a soft cloth prior to treatment.
Your doctor may use an otoscope or similar instrument to examine your ear canal and eardrum, shining light into it to magnify earwax and make it easier for them to identify any impacted areas. If they detect impaction they may use suction or curette removal. If removal fails they may also perform an irrigation – which consists of using a syringe-like tool to insert warm room temperature water or mixture of warm and saline water directly into your ear to flush away excess earwax deposits.
Be mindful that ear irrigation may not always be successful and may result in complications, including perforated eardrum or persistent noise in the ears. Because of this risk, it is usually reserved for patients who have tried other home removal methods like drops, irrigation or swabbing without success.
3. Avoid Smoking
Earwax serves an essential purpose: trapping dirt, smog, smoke and bacteria before they can penetrate more delicate parts of your ears. Disregarding its presence could result in infections or perforated eardrums if attempted removal attempts go too far; you should only attempt it if experiencing pain, dizziness or feeling your ears are blocked up.
Ear wax usually works its way out of your ear canal on its own over time, though if it is slow moving or you use hearing aids you may require assistance by adding drops of mineral oil, baby oil or glycerin. Never attempt to remove earwax with cotton swabs as this may actually push it deeper into your canal and potentially lead to blockages or infection.
If you suffer from chronic earwax buildup or impaction, your hearing professional may recommend ear irrigation as a method to soften and dislodge it. Irrigation typically uses water-powered bulb syringes or special irrigation tools such as an ear irrigation tool to soften and flush away excess earwax from your ears; this process must be carried out under medical supervision to avoid causing infection or even perforated eardrums.
Some individuals opt for treating their earwax impaction at home using household products like hydrogen peroxide. Although this might soften impacted earwax and allow it to drain naturally, using hydrogen peroxide incorrectly could potentially damage a person’s ear canal and even damage hearing in extreme cases.
If you find that excess earwax is becoming a persistent issue, seek medical advice prior to trying any home remedies on your own. A physician may suggest using ear drops as a temporary solution or refer you to an ENT specialist; self-tackling methods, like cotton swabs and Hopi ear candles can often create more issues than they resolve.
4. Oil Your Ears
Your body produces natural earwax to coat, protect and lubricate the ear canal; however, sometimes too much accumulates and becomes impacted. This can block off your hearing. To avoid an earwax build-up problem, only use washcloth or towel when cleaning your ears; avoid cotton swabs which compact earwax further while irritating skin of ear canal. In addition, keeping ears moist is recommended.
Earwax should normally move towards the opening of your ear canal and fall out or be washed away over time, however if you have too much earwax or your canal is shaped differently it may not move as intended and become dry and hard. Furthermore, wearing headphones or plugs may interfere with this natural process by encouraging more of it to remain inside rather than exit the canal.
Mineral or baby oil can help soften earwax before it builds up in your ears, helping it drain out quicker. A few drops in each ear every night for two weeks should ensure all accumulated earwax can easily exit through drain holes in your ears and drain away naturally. You may also use warm water instead, since colder temperatures could potentially cause dizziness.
Do not attempt to flush out earwax using commercial irrigation devices such as Water Piks as their force can potentially rupture your eardrum and cause serious injury. Also avoid trying to remove it yourself with tools like syringes as these methods could result in serious trauma to your ears.
If you have an abundance of earwax, make an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) so they can remove it in their office safely without harming either the eardrum or canal. Furthermore, they will provide tips for how to prevent build-up in future; this is particularly important for individuals with perforated eardrums, surgeries or tubes in place.