Having difficulty hearing? Probably the most prevalent cause of temporary hearing loss is an accumulation of ear wax within the ear canal. Clearly, if you have encountered this or suspect that a buildup of ear wax might be causing some reduced hearing, you would like to clean your ears. The real question is the best way to do this safely, and without damaging the delicate tissues of your ear or your hearing.

For that reason, when sharing this write-up of tips, it’s wise to begin with a reminder of things not to do. You shouldn’t stick any foreign objects in your ear. Regardless of whether it’s a cotton swab or other object, you’re much more likely to make the situation even worse by further compressing the ear wax if you go poking around in your ear. Also, avoid any kind of gadget that shoots a pressurized stream of water into your ears, such as a WaterPik, because this can rupture the ear drum. Furthermore, if you know that you have a perforated eardrum or believe that you have an ear infection, don’t attempt to clean your ears on your own, and see a hearing specialist instead. Signs suggesting a possible ear infection or perforated ear drum include vomiting or diarrhea, fever, ear pain and fluid draining from the ears.

For effective home ear cleaning, all you need is a syringe or bulb of some kind at the pharmacy and a safe rinse solution. Such solutions (often called carbamide peroxide) are available at drug stores; you can also mix your own by combining equal measures of glycerin, mineral oil and 3-4%.

To apply the solution, lightly squeeze the solution into the ear using the syringe or bulb. It works best to lay down on your side and have a towel readily available to catch drips. Try to avoid touching the ear with the bulb if you can. Allow the carbamide peroxide solution to linger in your ear for a couple minutes (or, if you use hydrogen peroxide, until you stop hearing the sound of the bubbling), and then repeat with the other ear.

After the ear wax has been softened and loosened by the solution, rinse each ear once again with lukewarm water, and then dry the outer ears carefully with a soft towel. If the blockage persists, repeat this process of cleaning your ears two times a day for 2 or 3 days. If the issue still persist, call your a hearing specialist or audiologist.