Ears: To Clean or Not to Clean?

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Earwax is your body’s natural way of lubricating and protecting your ears from debris and bacteria. If you do not have enough earwax, you may experience dry, itchy ears. Often times people feel the need to remove the wax on their own by using cotton swabs, inserting other objects into the ear canal, earwax candles, or other over-the-counter remedies. These are not the best methods as you can actually push the wax further into the ear canal creating a blockage or causing damage to the ear drum. Chewing and moving the jaw is the body’s natural way of moving wax out of the canal. 

First, let’s talk about what not to do.

There is an old saying that you should not insert anything smaller than your elbow into your ear and we agree! Cotton swabs are the most common object inserted into the ear for wax removal. Several dangers associated with this include, pushing the wax further into the canal, injuring the ear drum, and slowing down the natural process of ear wax removal. Cotton swabs should only be used to clean the outer ear. 

Earwax candles involve inserting a 10-inch long candle into the ear canal and lighting the exposed end in order to draw out the wax. Some of the risks involved with this method include burning the ear or face, getting wax stuck in the ear canal, developing swimmer’s ear, and contracting a secondary infection. There are no scientifically proven medical benefits to earwax candles. 

Now, let’s talk about some methods that are generally safe if no extenuating issues are present such as a tympanic membrane perforation or infection. There are many over the counter remedies available. These include using peroxide a few days per month, ear wax removal drops such as Debrox, or natural oil drops such as Miracell.

However, for some people, especially those wearing hearing aids or earphones for many hours per day, the ear may need a little help.  A trip to your audiologist or physician is warranted should you need a trained professional to remove the ear wax for you.