What If Theres Too Much Earwax Buildup
If your child does have buildup in his ear and youre not able to safely remove the earwax, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your pediatrician.
A moderate amount of earwax in a kids ear is healthy, so most of the time, ear cleaning is not needed. If your child experiences wax buildup in the ear canal, it is important you know how to clean his ears safely.
When It Comes To Your Child Where You Take Them Matters
If your child has ear infections, strep throat or other issues that impact their ears, nose or throat, find a pediatric otolaryngologist or click the link below to schedule an appointment.
Nandini Govil, MD, MPH, joined Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta as a Pediatric Otolaryngologist and joined Emory University as an Assistant Professor in 2019. She came to Atlanta by way of Pittsburgh, Penn., where she completed a fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh.
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.
Wipe Away Exterior Wax
While weve talked a lot about cleaning out your ear canals, we havent yet discussed what to do if you have earwax on the very edge or outside of your ear. The best way to deal with visible earwax is to wipe it away with a dampened washcloth. Dont try to penetrate the ear canal, but do massage the exterior of the ear until it appears clean. These Cotton Craft Washcloths are ideal for the job, but just about any washcloth will do.
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If A Remedy Sounds Odd Avoid It
It probably goes without saying, but you certainly should never stick a lit candle in your ear to get rid of an earwax blockage. Ear candling is an old and very pseudo-scientific way of removing earwax by sticking a hollow candle in your ear and lighting it. The idea is that the heat of the flame causes a vacuum which draws the earwax into the hollow space in the candle. This does not work and you will probably cause a lot more damage to your ears. If something doesnt seem right, it most likely isnt and its best to seek advice from a professional. Dont chance losing your hearing by simply trying anything.
You should if all else fails. Irreversible hearing loss or a ruptured eardrum are the kinds of consequences you could suffer from incorrect earwax removal.
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Tips To Unclog Your Ears
However, if you have drainage, discomfort, or symptoms of an ear infection, the above methods would be a bad idea. Below are a few other methods to help unclog your ears:
- Hydrogen peroxide can be used to break up ear wax. Mix the solution with warm water making sure that the water isnt too hot and then put a drop or two into your ear with a dropper. Tip your head to the side so that your ear faces upward while putting the drops in. Stay that way for several seconds to allow the hydrogen peroxide to dissolve the ear wax. You may have to do this a few times a day for a couple of days.
- Another home remedy is to inhale the steam. Steam may help thin and loosen mucus, so it can be expelled. A hot steamy shower, sauna, or humidifier will work in the same way.
- Eat hot foods or spicy foods to thin mucus that is blocking your ears. It will also help with nasal congestion.
The following techniques should help you get rid of the water trapped in your ears.
Recommended ear wax removal methods
If the blocked ear feeling persists or if your symptoms get worse after several days, you probably have an infection. See your doctor and get appropriate treatment. Ear infections should not be taken lightly because they can become serious and cause irreversible hearing loss.
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Joy Victory Managing Editor Healthy Hearing
Joy Victory has extensive experience editing consumer health information. Her training in particular has focused on how to best communicate evidence-based medical guidelines and clinical trial results to the public. She strives to make health content accurate, accessible and engaging to the public.Read more about Joy.
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Use Oil Or Baking Soda
There are other ways you can remove ear wax at home with natural substances, though they will likely take longer to work than ear drops.
Oils, such as baby oil, mineral oil, coconut oil, olive oil, or glycerin a natural compound derived from vegetable oils or animal fats can be used to soften and remove ear wax.
Heres how to do it:
- Apply the oil. Tilt your head to the side and using an eyedropper, or dropper bottle apply a few drops of your oil of choice into the ear canal.
- Drain it out using warm water. After a day or two, when the wax is softened, use a rubber-bulb syringe to gently squirt warm water into your ear canal. Tilt your head and pull your outer ear up and back to straighten your ear canal. When finished irrigating, tip your head to the side to let the water drain out.
- Dry your ear canal. Use either a towel or hair-dryer on low or no heat to gently dry your ear canal. This is optional, according to Lin.
- Repeat, if necessary. You can try this method multiple times every few days until the excess ear wax is removed.
Alternatively, you may also be able to remove ear wax with a baking soda solution:
Its important to note that these natural softening agents can sometimes have adverse effects, because they may only loosen the outer layer of the wax, which can then lodge deeper into the ear canal.
If your impacted ear wax symptoms dont improve after using these methods for a week or two, check in with your healthcare provider.
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Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- History of ear drum perforation, tubes or ear surgery. Reason: don’t remove wax at home.
- Complete hearing loss in either ear
- Age less than 6 years with earwax problems
- Earwax problems not better after using Care Advice
- You don’t want to try to remove earwax at home
- You have other questions or concerns
How To Safely Clean Your Ears
Even though earwax has its benefits, blockages can cause a conductive hearing loss. If you develop a sensation of stuffiness in your ears and suspect earwax is the culprit:
- Do not clean ears with a cotton swab, hairpin or any sharp instrument in an attempt to remove wax yourself. This can push the wax deeper into the ear canal where it is unable to be sloughed off naturally, or you could even puncture your eardrum.
- Do not try ear candling. Besides having no proven benefits, ear candling can cause burns, wax blockage, punctured eardrums and serious injury.
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The Outer Ear And Canal
The outer ear is the funnel-like part of the ear you can see on the side of the head, plus the ear canal .
The ear canal is shaped somewhat like an hourglass-narrowing part way down. The skin of the outer part of the canal has special glands that produce earwax. This wax is supposed to trap dust and dirt particles to keep them from reaching the eardrum. Usually the wax accumulates a bit, dries out and then comes tumbling out of the ear, carrying dirt and dust with it. Or it may slowly migrate to the outside where it can be wiped off. The ear canal may be blocked by wax when attempts to clean the ear push wax deeper into the ear canal and cause a blockage. Wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss.
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Use A Moistened Cotton Ball
This is the simplest method to removing small amounts of earwax. And chances are you have everything you need at home. Heres how to do it:
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How Often Should I Clean My Ears
Since wax is an important part of your ears, it should not be cleaned out too often as you will get dry itchy ears. On the other hand, if you let wax accumulate in the ear, it might cause blockage. However, cleaning of the ears cannot be standardized as different people produce different amounts of wax. For some, it is very little and others it is too much and has to be constantly cleaned. To be on the safe side, use a face towel to wipe off excess wax from the outer ear every morning when you take a shower. But this does not mean you twist the corner and stuff it in. Just wipe the opening of the ear and you will be good to go.
Wash Out The Wax With Water
Never use a jet irrigator meant for dental cleaning to irrigate your ear. Also avoid irrigating your ear if you have diabetes, a perforation or tube in your eardrum, a weakened immune system, or skin problems like eczema. In these cases, it is best to consult a doctor who will manually remove the earwax.6
Heres how you go about washing the earwax out with water:
- Warm the water to body temperature before you use it. If the water is at a colder or warmer temperature, it can cause vertigo or dizziness.
- Hold your head up and pull your ear upward by holding the outer ear to straighten your ear canal.
- Use a rubber bulb syringe to stream water gently against the wall of the ear canal next to the earwax plug. Remember, never fill your ears with water or spurt in water with force.
- Tilt your head so that the water can drain out of your ear.
You may need to repeat this process a few times to get the wax out of your ear. 8
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Salt Water To Remove Ear Wax Quickly
Salt water is one of the most common and effective methods to remove excess ear wax. It softens the hard wax and makes it easier to get rid of it. Follow the steps carefully before using it.
Directions to Use Salt Water to Remove Ear Wax:
- Mix 1/4th cup of water to 1/2 tsp of salt and dissolve it properly,
- If you dont have aspirator or dropper, simply soak a cotton ball and squeeze a few drops of salt solution in the affected ear.
- Leave the solution in the ear for several minutes.
- Later, drain out the excess of solution and wax which comes out it with the solution.
- Clean outer ear with a towel.
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Choose A Saline Solution
Many saline solutions designed for cleaning the ear canals are sold in stores, but you can also make them yourself. To do this, just mix a tablespoon of sea salt in half a cup of warm water. Then, soak a compress in the solution and let the liquid flow drop by drop into the ear canal with your head tilted to the side. Saltwater can also be used as a preventative measure.
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Baby Oil Or Mineral Oil
These types of oils can soften earwax and allow it to move out of the ear canal. Take an ear dropper and put three to five drops of oil in one ear. If you need to, use a cotton ball to keep the oil in the ear. Allow it to soak for about ten minutes or so and then tilt your ear to allow the oil to drain out.
Can You Dry Your Ears With A Hair Dryer
You may have seen a person with dirty ears using a blow dryer to get rid of that ear sweat. If this has happened to you, do not worry because it is a common problem for most people who have dry, damaged ears.
When you try to dry your ears with a hair dryer, you will find that there are two ways to do so: either by drying the ear completely, or by drying the outer ear then filling it with a small amount of water. Both methods work, but your choice will depend on whether you want to use a hairdryer to get rid of water in the ear, or just want to minimize the amount of time that you are exposed to that dry, hot air.
The best way to get rid of excess ear sweat without having to use a hair dryer is to use an iontophoresis. This device, which sounds a little more complicated than a hair dryer, is actually a small electronic device that uses static electricity to change the electrical charge of the earwax.
Since earwax contains no blood cells, it cannot change its electrical charge easily, so the change in charge is permanent. The change can last anywhere from one to five minutes, depending on how much ear wax is in the ear.
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Is It Safe To Put Alcohol And Vinegar In Your Ear
Treatment and prevention
A homemade cure can be mixed from a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half vinegar. The alcohol combines with water in the ear and then evaporates, removing the water, while the acidity of the vinegar keeps bacteria from growing. Apply a couple of drops of solution in each ear.
How Not To Clean Your Ears
Ear wax is normally formed in the deep parts of your ear. When the doctor notices buildup on your ear drum, it means you have been using foreign objects to clean your ears. This build up could eventually lead to hearing loss. So to avoid this, DO NOT:
- Clean your ears with long pointy objects like twisted napkin corners and bobby pins.
- Use cotton swabs. They will just push the wax deeper into the canal causing blockage.
- Use ear candles. Ear candles can cause serious injuries as warned by the FDA in 2010.
If you have excessive production of wax or feel stuffy in your ears, consult your doctor.
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Gday Electric Cordless Ear Pick $1980
This little gadget works as a tiny vacuum to safely suck the wax out of your ear. With a silicone cleaning tip, its far more hygienic than cotton swaps and just the right length to avoid doing any damage. The gentle vibrations also feel like a mini massage, so if you fall victim to itchy ears regularly, youll love this.
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Symptoms Of Earwax Buildup
- Too much earwax can cause rubbing of the ear or poking in the canal.
- A piece of ear wax can become dry and hard in the ear canal. This creates a feeling that an object is in the ear.
- Complete blockage of the ear canal by wax causes more symptoms. These include decreased or muffled hearing.
- A large piece of earwax may be seen inside the ear canal.
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Use A Hair Dryer To Remove Earwax
Take a shower and direct the flow of water into your ear canal, then tilt your head to facilitate draining. After you finish showering, set the hair dryer on its coolest setting and direct the air into the ear. Be sure it hold the hair dryer at least 30 cm away.
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When To See Your Doctor
Trapped water usually goes away without treatment. If it bothers you, consider trying one of these home treatments to help relieve your discomfort. But if the water is still trapped after 2 to 3 days or if you show signs of infection, you should call your doctor.
If your ear becomes inflamed or swollen, you may have developed an ear infection. An ear infection can become serious if you dont get treatment for it. It may lead to hearing loss or other complications, such as cartilage and bone damage.
Your doctor can prescribe medications to eliminate infection and relieve pain.
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Ear Infections After Using Q
Its also possible to get an ear infection from using Q-tips. While youre trying to pull earwax out of the ear canal, youre also pushing things like dead cells and bacteria in. Sometimes this can result in an infection in the ear canal.
You can also get an infection in your outer ear, where its generally okay to use a Q-tip. The cause is usually overcleaning, resulting in damaged skin which allows bacteria to get in, causing an infection. If you ever think your ears are plugged because of a sinus infection, there are over-the-counter decongestants you can use that should help. Definitely dont use Q-tips in this situation because it will only make the issue worse.