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 widespread, and it violates the 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 likely only shove the earwax up against the eardrum, possibly causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum injury.
So what should you be doing to clean your ears under ordinary conditions? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t expecting something more profound). Your ears are built to be self-cleansing, and the normal motions of your jaw force earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you attempt to remove it, your ear just generates more wax.
And earwax is necessary, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial characteristics. In fact, over-cleaning the ears brings about dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. Therefore, for the majority of people most 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 instances 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 sensitive 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 lead to significant injuries.)
To correctly clean your ears at home, take the following methods:
- Purchase earwax softening solution at the pharmacy or make some at home. Instructions for preparing the solution can be found on the internet, and the mixture often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
- Pour the solution into your ears from the bowl or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and let the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
- Empty the fluid out of your ear by tilting your head slowly over a container or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pressed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t push the cotton ball into your ear.)
- Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to dislodge any loose earwax.
When not to clean your ears at home
Cleaning your ears at home could be hazardous in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you suffer from 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 are unsuccessful may indicate a more extreme congestion that necessitates professional cleaning.
Medical doctors and hearing specialists apply a variety of medicines and devices to quickly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be stronger than the homemade versions, and tools called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.
When in doubt, leave it to the experts. You’ll get the assurance that you’re not causing damage to your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying issues or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.
If you have any further questions or want to set up 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.