Cerumen, also known as earwax, tends to get a bad rap. Although it doesn’t look very appealing, this bodily fluid plays an important part in the ear’s self-cleaning process, helping to facilitate the removal of dead skin cells, dust, and debris from the ear canal. Produced by special glands in the outer third of the ear canal, it possesses protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. Ideally, you should simply ignore this waxy substance. But if it’s bothering you or causing hearing issues, it’s important that you understand how to remove earwax safely.
When Should Ears Be Cleaned?
Sometimes an ear’s self-cleaning process simply isn’t up to par. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may need to have excess earwax removed:
- Sensations of fullness, blockage, or pain
- Hearing loss
- Noises in the ear
How to Remove Earwax Correctly
People use a variety of techniques to remove earwax, but not all of them are safe and effective. Sadly, choosing the wrong technique can cause problems that are far more serious than a little extra earwax. When determining how to remove earwax, it’s vital that you select an appropriate method to avoid endangering your ear and hearing health.
See Your Audiologist
An audiologist can remove earwax buildup safely and comfortably without risking damage to your ear drum. They will use one of several techniques, such as direct removal using wax loops, irrigation, or suction. Regardless of which method your audiologist employs, you can rest assured that the treatment will be safe and effective. It is especially important that you visit an audiologist if you have a perforated ear drum, diabetes, a weakened immune system, or a skin issue that affects the ear canal. Your audiologist may recommend one of the following treatment methods, which can often be completed safely at home using a kit provided by your doctor:
Warm Water or Saline
If excessive wax is an issue, irrigation (sometimes called ear syringing), can speed its removal. Your doctor may provide you with an at-home kit containing a bulb syringe and saline (water works as well). You should also have a few paper towels or hand towels handy, and you will need to warm the liquid before you begin. Why does the temperature of the fluid matter? Using fluids that are near body temperature helps to prevent dizziness. To complete the process, you will simply tip your head to one side and use the syringe to squirt the fluid gently into the ear canal. The towels are used to catch the fluid as it flows out of the ear, bringing any extra earwax with it.
When wax is stubborn or impacted, wax-softening agents can be placed in the ear to make it easier to remove the cerumen. Placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, commercial earwax removal drops, or glycerin in the ear will normally soften the wax. Then, the wax can be allowed to work its way out naturally or hurried along with ear syringing.
Putting a few drops of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide into the ear will also soften wax. Again, the softened wax can be allowed to work its way out naturally or prompted to move with ear syringing.
How Not to Remove Earwax
Some methods of earwax removal can endanger a person’s hearing because they either push earwax deeper into the ear or pack it down, making it harder to remove. Other methods create a risk of injury for the ear drum, ear canal, or other parts of the body, increasing the odds of infection and other problems. These techniques may be common ways to remove earwax, but they should be avoided.
Sticking cotton swabs or tissues wrapped around bobby pins might seem like an effective strategy for removing earwax, but it can cause serious harm. Shoving something in the ear can puncture the ear drum or cause scratches that can become infected. It also increases the odds that the earwax will become impacted, which can affect your ability to hear. To remove impacted earwax, you will need a doctor’s assistance.
Ear candling has been around for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for earwax removal. In this method, the bottom of a hollow candle is placed in the ear canal. The idea is that when the candle is lit, the heat will create a vacuum and draw out the earwax. The problem with this method is that it simply does not work; studies suggest that the process does not create a vacuum and does not remove excess earwax. To make matters worse, the possibility of being burned by the candle’s flame or the hot wax creates a potential for serious injury.
Learning how to remove earwax safely can prevent discomfort, hearing troubles, and other health issues. Is your earwax bothering you? If you live in Colorado, contact Apex Audiology. We can review your symptoms, diagnose the issue, and recommend an effective treatment. To get started, please contact us online or give us a call at 719-247-9000 to schedule an appointment today. We look forward to serving you!