Tips for Cleaning Your Ears

In Ear Health by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Does earwax drive you nuts? It builds up around your ear and gets stuck on your earbuds and while no one always wants to do it, it’s nice to keep your ears clean. However, there’s a wrong way and a right way to clean your ears safely

Avoid Cotton Swabs

While it was a standard of the past to use a cotton swab to clean your ears, in retrospect it is a dangerous method. In actuality, you should never stick anything larger than your elbow in your ear canal. Within your inner ear lies your eardrum, ossicles (three tiny bones which vibrate), and the cochlea, which holds tiny cells responsible for sending sound to the brain. To put it simply, the inner ear is a complex and delicate system. Sticking a cotton swab in your ear could damage any of these parts as well as cause earwax to become impacted. Often an impaction can cause temporary hearing loss, or worse, damage done by mishaps with cleaning could lead to lasting hearing loss.

Use Softening Solutions and Oils

While earwax isn’t the most desirable substance, it plays an important role in the health of our ears. It works as an antimicrobial agent protecting small cuts within the auditory system from becoming infected. In addition, it also works as a sort of conveyor belt for dirt and debris. During the day dirt inevitably gets logged in your ear. Earwax helps move things out towards the outer ear. However, when earwax does become impacted it’s important to attempt to loosen it. One effective method is the use of oil, such as mineral oil or baby oil. Other people find success with over-the-counter commercial earwax removal brands or saltwater.

It’s recommended to put a few drops of oil in each ear while laying on your side. Let the oil sit for about 10 minutes on each side and then take a hot shower. The moisture and heat mixed with the oil can soften the earwax and allow it to leave your inner ear naturally. The ear wax will gather in your outer ear, where it can be wiped away with a soft washcloth.

Don’t Clean Your Ears Regularly

A common misconception is that you should clean your ears out as regularly as you brush your teeth or wash your face. However, your auditory system relies on ear wax to maintain maximum health. Earwax gets transported out of the canal towards the outer ear every time you chew, speak, or just move your jaw. Too little ear wax is a serious problem removing the protective layer of the ear canal, leading to itchy dryness and a higher possibility of ear infections. Experts recommend that the maximum limit for cleaning your ears with a soft washcloth is every two to four weeks.

Ask If You Need To Clean Your Ears At All

The ears are self-cleaning, meaning that the majority of people don’t need to clean their ears at all. People who seem to have more issues with a buildup of earwax are those who wear earplugs for work, or recreation as well as frequent earbud users. While earplugs are essential for protecting your hearing, they can stop earwax from naturally exiting your ear canal. The issue is many people with hearing impairment don’t even realize it because it often occurs slowly over time. If your hearing feels” dull’ it may indicate that you have an impaction. Even so, it’s best to see a medical professional such as an audiologist or ENT know for sure. These experts have the knowledge and tools to clean out a possible impact in the best way possible. In addition, they have the tools to test your hearing and rule out other possible options.

We’re Here to Help

If you suspect that you have a hearing loss due to the impaction of earwax or due to another cause, it’s important to address it as soon as possible. Unaddressed hearing loss can lead to chronic depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, confusion, and a higher risk of accidents. Don’t let it get to that point. Contact us today to set up a hearing exam. If you find that you’re suffering from an excess of earwax, we can help you develop strategies to address and prevent this in the future.