As gross as it may seem, everyone has wax in their ears, and it’s actually a good thing. Ear wax acts as a barrier to protect the ear canal from dust, bacteria and other particles that might damage the inner ear. Sometimes, however, individuals might experience a build-up due to the body’s overproduction or compaction of wax. You may experience this as your hearing being muted. The easiest way to solve this problem is to clean your ears, but how?
DON’T: Cotton Swabs
Cotton swabs seem like the most basic way to clean your ears. You put the swab in, lightly scrape the wax off of the walls of your ear, and discard. But is this really an effective method?
Although many of us might have grown up using cotton swabs to remove wax, it actually makes the problem worse. Every time the cotton goes into your ear, you’re actually pushing the majority of the wax further down into the canal, causing it to compact closer to the ear drum and unfortunately meaning that your ears will be more plugged up than before. If you’re not careful in how far you put the cotton swab in, you could even permanently damage your ear drum. Overall, using cotton swabs isn’t an efficient way to remove wax.
DO: Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can be administered into the ear with a dropper to loosen the wax, making it easier to remove with a cotton ball (not a cotton swab) or by letting the liquid drain out of the ear.
Note: be careful not to use this method too often. Hydrogen peroxide can irritate the ear canal, causing it to become inflamed thereby trapping even more wax near the inner ear. To avoid this once every day or two using this method would be sufficient in avoiding irritation.
DO: Ear Irrigation, but carefully
In cases where a large mass of wax is built up in the ear canal, you can irrigate the ear to remove the blockage. You can use this method at home for a more intensive clean, using a solution of equal parts white vinegar, warm water and rubbing alcohol in a dropper.
Administer a few drops into the each ear (you don’t need to use any more than that). Wait a few minutes to let the solution loosen the wax from the walls of the canal, then tilt your head to the side and allow the liquid to run out into a cotton ball.
Like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and vinegar can also be an irritant to the ear. At-home ear irrigation should only be used in cases when a deep cleaning is needed.
DON’T: Irrigation with a Syringe
You may have heard of this method, pumping large quantities of water into the ear to remove serious blockages. DO NOT try this method at home. Ear syringing should be left to doctors and other medical professionals, as the pressure from the water can cause ear canal or drum damage.
DO: Mineral Oil
Like any other part of your body, the skin of your ear creates its own natural oils, which moisturize and protect the ear canal.
Warming some mineral oil, putting a few drops in your ears, waiting 10 to 20 minutes and draining is the safest and easiest way to remove wax. Oil won’t irritate the ear canal, meaning that you won’t have to worry about inflammation or further blockage. This method can be used for regular cleanings.