- Most people describe earwax as a yucky, brown gunk that lives within the ears known for soiling headphones and earplugs. Gross!
- Although earwax, or cerumen, isn’t the most appetizing substance to touch, see, or feel, it does serve a higher purpose: protection.
- In this blog, the physicians at AOC explain the importance of earwax and how to properly clean your ears if your body has produced too much.
First and foremost, earwax is a self-cleaning agent that keeps your ears lubricated and protected from outside bacteria. Without it, our ears would likely become infected, constantly.
Nevertheless, having too much earwax can be bothersome and impact your ability to hear properly as well, which is why it may be necessary to clean out those ears! Ideally, the ear canal shouldn’t be cleaned, ever, because old earwax is always being pushed toward the outer ear from various jaw motions (chewing, talking, etc.) and falling out.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes the ears need to be cleaned when too much earwax has been produced. Cerumen impaction is the name of the condition that causes earwax to accumulate and partially block the ear canal. When this occurs, patients often experience the following symptoms:
- Partial hearing loss
- Earache, sensation of plugged ears
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Itching, odor, or discharge becoming expelled from the ears
The easy fix for some of these symptoms is typically a proper ear cleaning. You may be thinking, “So, that requires using a cotton swab, right?” Wrong! Cotton swabs can actually make the condition worse because they usually push the earwax deeper into the ear canal. Ear candles are no better. They can cause a number of injuries such as burns, perforation of the membrane, and obstruction of the ear canal.
Proper Ear Cleaning: 101
There are only a few ear-cleaning methods recommended by the American Academy of Otolaryngology. The simplest, at-home treatment option requires a substance like mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or hydrogen peroxide to soften the wax and encourage removal. For these techniques, you only need a few drops.
First, place about two to three drops of one of the above-mentioned liquids into your ear. Then, wait one to two minutes before tilting your head to one side. Using a washcloth, wash the external part of the ear as the earwax drains. Do not insert the cloth into the ear canal.
Irrigation, also called ear syringing, and manual removal can also be performed to remove wax. We recommend seeing your ENT doctor at AOC for these treatment options due to the nature of the procedures.
To talk to a physician about removing excess earwax, call AOC and schedule an appointment today!
Arizona Otolaryngology Consultants (AOC) is a comprehensive ENT clinic that provides care for all diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and sinuses. The physicians at AOC have the highest level of training and expertise in ENT care and ENT subspecialty care, which includes the management of pediatric airway, cancer, skull base surgery, advanced head and neck surgical and reconstructive procedures, craniofacial surgery and more. Call 602-264-4834 to request an appointment today!
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.