It’s important to maintain ear hygiene for overall health, but you also need to be cautious, as improper ear cleaning can lead to complications such as earwax blockage, ear infections, and even damage to the eardrum.
Why cleaning your ears is important
Having some earwax is perfectly natural and even beneficial. However, if it accumulates to the point that you have unpleasant side effects like decreased hearing or lightheadedness, you should get rid of it.
Ear infections may occur if earwax accumulates and becomes stuck in the ear canal. It’s important to rule out more serious causes of impaction symptoms (such fluid or hearing loss) and confirm that wax is the culprit if you’re experiencing them.
Why your ears make wax
Although earwax may smell unpleasant, it serves as a harmless and effective way to keep your ears clean. Wax usually travels from the ear canal’s inside to the ear’s outside. It carries along debris, dead skin, and even hair as it travels.
Research suggests that wax may have antibacterial and antifungal properties that make it particularly useful for this task.
So how to clean your ears at home
How to clean your ears safely at home. You may also be aware that removing wax with cotton swabs isn’t a recommended practice. How to clean your ears without hurting yourself, common mistakes to avoid, and when to see a doctor are all covered here. and Here are some safe methods to clean your ears at home:
Use a warm washcloth: Using a washcloth is a gentle and safe way to clean your ears. Moisten the washcloth with warm water, wring out the excess, then gently wipe the outer ear without inserting the cloth into the ear canal.
Saline solution: A saline solution can help to safely remove excess earwax. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in about 1/2 cup of warm water until it dissolves completely. Then, soak a cotton ball in the solution and squeeze a few drops into your ear canal. Tilt your head to the side for about a minute, then allow the solution to drain out.
Hydrogen peroxide: An over-the-counter ear cleaning solution often contains hydrogen peroxide. To use this, you’ll typically tilt your head to the side, apply a few drops to the ear, wait a few minutes, then tilt your head to the other side to let the solution drain out.
Baby oil or mineral oil: Similar to the hydrogen peroxide method, you can use baby oil or mineral oil. Apply a few drops into the ear, wait a few minutes, then tilt your head to allow the oil and earwax to drain out.
Over-the-counter ear cleaning kits: Many pharmacies sell over-the-counter ear cleaning kits which include a liquid that softens wax and a small bulb syringe. You can use the liquid to soften the earwax, and then use the bulb syringe to gently flush out the loosened wax.
Impaction signs and symptoms
Cerumen, or earwax, is a naturally occurring substance that helps keep your ears clean. It’s a magnet for dust, germs, and other grime. Chewing and other jaw actions help push the wax out of the ear canal on their own.
The ears of many individuals seldom, if ever, need to be cleaned. However, wax buildup may impair hearing in certain people. Earwax impaction occurs when buildup reaches this point.
Symptoms of impaction include but are not limited to the following.
- Discomfort in the afflicted ear
- Noise or fullness in the ear
- Hearing loss in the afflicted ear
- A smell emanating from the offending ear
- A hacking cough
If you use hearing aids or earplugs, you may see an increase in wax buildup. Additionally, the elderly and those with intellectual impairments are at a greater danger. The design of your ear canal might make it challenging to remove wax in a natural way.
Ear hygiene: the best practices
Having a doctor remove excess wax from your ears is the most secure option. Your doctor may use a cerumen spoon, forceps, or a suction equipment to remove the obstruction at your scheduled visit. Expert irrigation services are also available at several businesses.
These are the least risky options to attempt if you want to remove wax on your own at home:
Use a wet rag
Earwax may be pushed farther into the ear canal using cotton swabs. Cotton swabs should only be used on the outer ear; a warm, moist washcloth is preferable.
Ear-washing drops you may get at the store
Wax-softening eardrops are widely available at local pharmacies. These little doses are usually some kind of solution. In certain cases, they may include:
- The Use of Mineral Oil
- Wet wipes
- Oxygen peroxide
Put in the prescribed quantity of drops, wait the allotted time, and then remove the drops and flush your ear. Always refer to the product label for proper use. If your symptoms don’t improve after taking medication, you should see a doctor.
Syringe with an attached bulb
Ear irrigation with a syringe is another option. In this step, you’ll use water or saline solution to gently flush the ear canal. Using a wax softener 15-30 minutes before irrigating may greatly improve the efficiency of this procedure.
If you want to prevent feeling lightheaded, it’s preferable to get the solution up to your body temperature.
Safe ways to remove earwax
- Inquire about wax removal services at your doctor’s office.
- Use a wet towel to wipe the outside part of your ear.
- Don’t put cotton swabs in your ear if you must use them.
- Earwax softeners are designed to make it less of a chore to remove earwax.
- A syringe may be used to flush out your ears.
How often should I clean my ears?
Too frequent ear cleaning might cause discomfort. If you perform it wrong, you risk irritating your ear canal or causing more impaction.
Some professionals say that individuals don’t really need to clean their ears until they start having problems like clogs. Instead, your ears will naturally disinfect themselves.
If there is no accumulation, you should merely wipe the outside of your ears with a damp towel to keep them clean. Wax that has worked its way out of the ear canal on its own may be removed by washing the outer ear.
Wax accumulation may cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms; if this occurs, you may want to consider utilizing an over-the-counter ear wax removal kit. Take the medication as directed and see your doctor if you have any questions.
A medical practitioner may also advise you on whether or not you need to have your ears properly cleaned. OTC ear cleaning kits and other at-home treatments are not recommended for persons who have ear tubes or holes in their eardrums.
Things to avoid
Ear hygiene is optional for many individuals. The wax should self-manage. You might accidentally force the wax farther into your ear canal if you use little objects like bobby pins, cotton swabs, or the edges of napkins. When wax accumulates, it might cause obstructions.
Most medical professionals will tell you that you shouldn’t put anything smaller than your elbow inside your ear. Do not risk irreversible hearing loss by inserting sharp items, cotton swabs, or anything else into your ear.
Ear irrigation is not something you should do if you have:
- Having diabetes
- Your immune system is weak.
- Perhaps your eardrum is perforated.
- You’ve had tubes put in your ear.
You should also not use ear candles. When lighted, the long, cone-shaped candles are placed in the ear canal to create suction and remove ear wax. The flames might burn you, or the wax from the candle could become stuck in your ear.
When blockages are not treated, their symptoms might worsen. You risk permanent damage to your ears’ hearing thresholds. If the wax builds up too much, your doctor may have trouble seeing into your ear and making a diagnosis.
When to seek medical attention
Earwax buildup may cause the following symptoms:
- An ear fullness sensation
- A hearing impairment or a muted sound
- Ear discomfort
They may also indicate the presence of another health issue, such as an infection. If you’re having hearing problems, your doctor may check for wax accumulation by looking inside your ear.
In adults, ear infection symptoms may include:
- Headache and ear pain
- Flow of Fluids
- Damaged ears
Rapid onset of symptoms is indicative with an ear infection. Don’t attempt to self-treat if you have ear discomfort and discharge. The sooner you see a doctor to obtain an accurate diagnosis and treatment, the better.
Tell your doctor if you have risk factors or if earwax impaction occurs more than once a year. Every six to twelve months, a professional cleaning may be in order.
Tips for preventing ear damage
You can safeguard your hearing for years to come by doing more than just keeping your ears clean.
- Don’t put anything that are too little in your ears. If you want to avoid eardrum perforation or wax impaction, you shouldn’t place anything smaller than your elbow in your ear canal.
- Keep your exposure to loud noise to a minimum. If the noise becomes too intense, shield your ears with a hat or earplugs.
- Put down the headphones every so often and turn down the level so no one else can hear the music. Turn down the automobile stereo’s volume if it’s too loud.
- Avoid getting swimmer’s ear by thoroughly drying your ears after every swim. Wipe the outer ear with a towel and tilt your head back to drain any remaining water.
- If you notice a change in your hearing while taking a certain drug, it’s important to pay attention. Changes, dizziness, or hearing loss should prompt a visit to the doctor.
- In the event of unexpected discomfort, hearing loss, or an ear injury, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Remember, never stick a cotton swab, hairpin, key, or other similar object into your ear canal. These can push the earwax deeper into the ear, causing a blockage, or potentially damage the eardrum.
If you experience frequent or persistent earwax buildup, or if you have symptoms such as ear pain, fullness, ringing in the ear, hearing loss, itching, odor, or discharge, you should see a healthcare professional. You should also see a healthcare professional for ear cleaning if you have a perforated eardrum or a history of ear surgery.