That there is a right way to clean your ears suggests that there is a wrong way, and undoubtedly, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is common, and it breaches 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 probably 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 usual circumstances? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t looking for something more profound). Your ears are fashioned to be self-cleaning, and the normal movements of your jaw push earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you attempt to remove it, your ear just produces more wax.
And earwax is essential, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. In fact, over-cleaning the ears results in dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. Therefore, for the majority of people most of the time, nothing is needed other than normal bathing to clean the outer ear.
But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are scenarios in which individuals do generate an excessive amount of 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 will say it once again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the fragile skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and positively no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA released a warning against using them, reporting that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can give rise to significant injuries.)
To properly clean your ears at home, take the following steps:
- Buy earwax softening solution at the pharmacy or make some at home. Directions for preparing the mixture can be found on the internet, and the solution often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
- Pour the solution into your ears from the container or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and let the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
- Drain the solution out of your ear by tilting your head gradually 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 force the cotton ball into your ear.)
- 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 suffer from any symptoms such as fever, dizziness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to talk to your doctor or hearing specialist. Additionally, repeated attempts at self cleaning that fail may signify a more severe congestion that calls for professional cleaning.
Medical doctors and hearing specialists make use 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 experts. You’ll get the assurance that you’re not harming 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 additional questions or wish to set up an appointment, give us a call today! And remember, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a regular professional checkup every 6 months.