Cedar Audiology Associates - Cleveland, OH
Anatomy of the ear
Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014”.

That there is a right way to clean your ears implies that there is a wrong way, and undoubtedly, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is customary, and it breaks the very first rule of cleaning your ears: don’t insert foreign objects into your ear canal. That includes cotton swabs and any other object that will most likely only drive the earwax up against the eardrum, potentially causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum injury.

So what should you be doing to clean your ears under ordinary circumstances? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t expecting something more profound). Your ears are made to be self-cleansing, and the regular movements of your jaw move earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you attempt to remove it, your ear just produces more wax.

And earwax is beneficial, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial qualities. In fact, over-cleaning the ears results in dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. So, for the majority of people the majority of of the time, nothing is required other than normal showering to wash the outer ear.

But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are circumstances in which individuals do generate too much earwax or excess earwax impacts the eardrum. In instances like these, you will need to clean your ears. Here’s how:

Cleaning your ears at home

We’ll say it once again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the delicate skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and definitely no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA issued a warning against using them, declaring that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can induce serious injuries.)

To correctly clean your ears at home, take the following methods:

  1. Buy earwax softening solution at the drugstore or make some at home. Instructions for preparing the mixture can be found online, and the mixture often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
  2. Pour the solution into your ears from the bowl or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and allow the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the fluid out of your ear by tilting your head slowly over a bowl or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pushed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t push the cotton ball into your ear.)
  4. Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to dislodge any loosened earwax.

When not to clean your ears at home

Cleaning your ears at home could be unsafe in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you experience any symptoms such as fever, dizziness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to see your doctor or hearing specialist. Additionally, repeated attempts at self cleaning that fail may signify a more significant congestion that will require professional cleaning.

Medical doctors and hearing specialists take advantage of a variety of medicines and instruments to rapidly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be stronger than the homemade variants, and instruments called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.

When in doubt, leave it to the professionals. You’ll get the peace of mind that you’re not causing harm to your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying problems or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.

If you have any further questions or wish to schedule an appointment, give us a call today! And keep in mind, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a regular professional checkup every 6 months.

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