The Right Way to Clean Your Ears
Reaching for that cotton swab can be tempting. It may be the way you were taught to clean your ears. However, it is likely to make your problems worse. While you think you are removing ear wax, you are actually pushing ear wax further into your ear.
Ears are built to be self-cleaning. With the normal chewing and swallowing that people do every day, they are slowly pushing earwax towards the outer ear. The ear wax then dries and sheds with the skin.
There are some people who experience excess earwax that leads to wax buildup. This can happen for a number of reasons that we will get into. In a few minutes, you will also walk away knowing what to do (and not do) about it.
First, let’s look at why we actually want earwax!
What Earwax Does For Your Ears
Earwax may not look pretty, but your body needs it. Earwax has both antifungal and antibacterial properties. It also is a great protector of the ear. It stops dust, hair, or small insects from hurting the eardrum. Without ear wax, our ears would be more prone to infections and ear issues.
Just because you see earwax, doesn’t mean you have too much of it or that you have to get rid of it. It means your ears are working. However, it is true that too much of a good thing can be bad. For various reasons, there can be earwax buildup that causes you some problems.
Symptoms of earwax blockage:
- ear pain
- feelings of fullness in your ear or dull hearing
- temporary hearing loss or trouble hearing
- ear discharge
- foul-smell coming from ears
There are a small number of people who will need ear cleaning and if you experience any of these symptoms you should talk to your doctor about the cause and treatment. If you have a smaller than average ear canal or a unique shaped ear canal you may be more prone to a buildup of earwax. Previous ear surgery or trauma, as well as recurrent ear infections, can make you prone to excess earwax.
Hearing aid device wearers also experience an excess ear wax buildup more frequently. This is because the hearing aid blocks air circulation in the ear making it harder for the ear wax to move out and dry up. Proper hearing aid maintenance includes controlling the amounts of earwax in the ear and hearing aid.
If you use earplugs while sleeping or in your regular work environment, you may also be prone to ear wax build up the same way hearing aid wearers are.
Professional Ear Cleaning at a Hearing Center
A hearing care professional can clean your ears properly. They have special tools for a safe process of earwax removal. If you have risk factors where you experience excessive earwax you may want to set up routine professional cleanings with your hearing center.
A professional can also let you know about safe ear cleaning methods and what cleaning options to avoid.
Alternative Earwax Removal Methods
There are a few methods to safely clean your ears at home. For most people, the only method they should need is to wipe their outer ear with a warm washcloth. You should never insert cotton swabs, paper clips, or any other object into the ear canal. This can lead to an eardrum injury.
Another option if you experience earwax impaction is to try an over the counter earwax removal kit. These include ear cleaning drops that soften the ear wax allowing for it to make its way out easier. The cleaning solution usually includes saline, mineral oil, peroxide, or hydrogen peroxide. This earwax softening method works for some people to help lessen their earwax buildup.
Make sure that you always follow the directions on the box and call your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve.
Stay Away From Ear Candles
One bad idea that you want to stay away from is ear wax removal candles. Some people choose to treat earwax blockages with ear candles without knowing all of the risks. Ear candling involves a hollow candle and the idea that the heat from the candle will create suction and pull earwax and impurities out of the ear. Ear candles have never been proven as an effective earwax removal method.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has warned about the effects of ear candles for years. Some of the complications involved with using earwax candles are
- burn injuries from hot candle wax
- ear wax and deposits of candle wax getting stuck in the ear
- temporary hearing loss
- swimmers ear
- ear injury and partial hearing loss
- ear infections
Any possible benefits that ear candle manufacturers advertise are not worth the risks. These risks are more serious when a child is involved in the procedure because they have a harder time staying still.
Professional Hearing Services for the Best Hearing Experience
If you are experiencing any trouble hearing it is important to speak to a professional. Clearing earwax can help you to hear better but a professional hearing evaluation is the only way to know if you are hearing the way that you should. Many people are living with untreated hearing loss because they don’t realize how good they could be hearing.
Proper hearing starts with clear ears but it also involves regular hearing evaluations and screenings. If you are a hearing aid user you need to have your hearing checked more often. Any issues with your hearing aid need to be corrected at the first sign. Hearing issues can affect all areas of your life and the effects often go unnoticed in the early stages of hearingchanges.
Southwestern Hearing Centers provide complete hearing services. We get to know you and your lifestyle so we can give you the best treatment options and care. Regular visits with a hearing care professional can help you to know your best options for taking care of your ears and hearing. Having a plan with a professional is the best way to stay safe and avoid hearing issues.