For many people, grabbing a cotton swab and diving into the ear canal is the accepted method of ear cleaning.
You may have the best of intentions, but you’re likely doing more harm than good. And although earwax may make you feel unclean, it actually has nothing to do with personal hygiene.
Earwax is vital to the health of the outer ear canal. It provides lubrication, protection, and antibacterial properties. If ears are “cleaned” too often, the absence of earwax actually may result in dry and itchy ears. The ways that many of us have been conditioned to keep our ears “clean,” may actually harmful in the long run.
Follow these helpful tips to properly clean your ears without damaging this delicate sense organ.
How to Clean Your Ears Safely
Dr. Dena will tell you, somewhat humorously, that the only thing you should put in your ear canal is your elbow. This is because your ear canals are by nature self-cleaning and should not be cleared with any foreign devices. Cleaning your ear with cotton swabs or other tools can actually cause problems by pushing earwax deeper into the ear canal. However, wax can accumulate excessively sometimes, resulting in a blocked ear canal. If this happens, clean your outer ear with a cloth and try this technique to remove the blockage:
Put a few drops of mineral oil into the inner ear to soften the wax, which will allow it to come out more easily. With the mineral oil instilled, tilt your head to the side. The cleaning process will work better if your ear canal is as close to vertical as possible. Allow the ear you’re cleaning to face upward. If you can, lie down on your side. Put some towels under your head to catch any excess solution. Allow the solution to work for 5 to 10 minutes.
After the wax has softened, use a rubber bulb syringe to gently flush out loosened earwax. Squirt lukewarm water (at body temperature—98.6°F (37°C)) gently into your ear canal.
The best time to clean ears is after taking a shower. It’s much easier because the cerumen (earwax) will be softer.
Of course, you don’t have to do it yourself: Dr. Dena Riso specializes in using safe instruments to remove excess earwax.
Also, it is important to remember that not only is the ear self-cleaning, but it also clears itself due to the body’s normal movements. Old earwax is constantly being transported from the inner ear canal to the ear opening by chewing, talking, or simply moving the jaw.
How Not to Clean your Ears
Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal. So when Dr. Dena sees someone with a build-up of wax against the eardrum, it is often because the person used foreign objects to try to clean out the inner ear. This wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. To avoid this problem, avoid the following:
- Do not clean your ears with bobby pins, twisted napkin corners, or any other long pointed objects.
- Do not use cotton swabs. They will only push the wax deeper into your ear canal, and a serious blockage may result.
- Do not use ear candles. The FDA issued a public warning in 2010 that the use of ear candles can lead to serious injuries.
If you are constantly experiencing excessive amounts of ear wax or a stuffy feeling in your ears, or have any other questions about earwax or other hearing concerns, Dr. Dena is your partner in better hearing. Call her office today.