How To Clean Your Ears Safely At Home
Note: Do not try to clean your ears on your own if you have a hole or a tube in your eardrum. Also, if your symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
Everything in the body has a purpose and earwax is no exception. Earwax is important to the health of the outer ear canal, as it provides protection, lubrication and antibacterial properties.
Your ears produce earwax constantly, so that there is the right amount in your ear canals. However, sometimes wax can accumulate excessively, resulting in a blocked ear canal.
When earwax or gunk builds up in your ears, they can feel plugged up and it may even affect your hearing.
Other symptoms are aching in the affected ear, fullness or ringing in the ear, an unpleasant odor coming from the ear, dizziness and even a cough. Excess buildup dirt, bacteria, and other debris in the ear can increase the risk of infection, which can cause pain in the middle ear, fluid drainage and impaired hearing.
People who use hearing aids or ear plugs as well as older people and people with developmental disabilities are more likely to develop excess earwax.
Usually, earwax works its way out of the ear naturally through chewing and other jaw motions, but you need to safely remove earwax from the outer ear.
Here are the top 10 ways to clean your ears safely at home.
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.
What You Should Avoid
Its unnecessary to clean the ears all the time. As stated, our ears can take care of themselves. The use of different items such as cotton swabs and bobby pins will only push the wax to the inner parts of the ear canal, making it particularly difficult to reach. When the earwax buildup occurs in the deeper ear canal, cerumen impaction might take place.
Doctors are firm in prohibiting tiny objects inside the ears. This means that putting a sharp object, cotton swab, or things that might damage the eardrum is a big no-no. Doing so can affect your hearing, or worse, lead to total loss of hearing.
Ear irrigation should not be performed if you have:
- a hole in your eardrum
- tubes in the ear
- weak immune system
On the other note, ear candles are also not recommended. Apart from the fact that it is a very unsafe method, you might end up having more wax inside your ear from the candle. Plus, ear candles use fire to suck the wax, and if not handled properly, the fire can cause injury.
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Tips To Clean Your Ears
Its likely youve seen the news articles and website posts regarding cotton swabs and how they should not be used to remove earwax from your ear canal. Thats good advice when it comes to what not to do, but what if you feel as if your ears need a little help now and then? Even though our ears are self-cleaning, sometimes earwax can build up and requires removal. Here are some safe ways to clean your ears.
Alarm Bells Went Off In The 1970s
The Q-tip was invented in 1923 by Polish immigrant Leo Gerstenzang, based on his wife’s cotton wrapped around a toothpick prototype which she used to clean their baby’s eyes, ears and belly button, CNN reports.
Using the nifty tool to clean the ear soon became a marketing ploy, until advice emerged in the 1970s warning consumers about the dangers of the behaviour.
It was around this time that previous Q-tip owner Chesebrough-Pond’s started issuing warning labels about the dangers of cotton bud usage for cleansing the ear, on the product’s packaging.
“The company has no details on why they did this, and our search of the records turns up no publicised case of anyone with a swab in the brain,” the Washington Post reported in 1990.
“Something must have happened, and Chesebrough-Pond’s didn’t want to be blamed.”
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How To Remove Ear Wax Safely
So how can you best handle ear wax woes?
Sometimes, trying to clean them causes more problems than its worth, says Dr. Nguyen-Huynh. Ears are like self-cleaning ovens. When the outer layer of skin in the ear canal sheds, the wax will fall out with it.
If ear wax is becoming a nuisance, Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends several easy ear cleaning methods:
Reduces Tension And Stress
If you experience a lot of stress in your life, its important to keep your body and mind as healthy as possible. One way to do this is to take care of your body by keeping it clean and healthy. Earwax cleansers can help reduce stress and improve your mental health. Earwax is associated with various mental health issues, including stress and depression. This is because it can accumulate in the ears and block the eustachian tube, causing pressure in the ears and a feeling of ear fullness. Many people who experience earwax build-up experience a reduction in earwax when they clean their ears regularly. Regular cleaning can reduce the amount of earwax buildup in your ears, allowing them to function more efficiently and reducing your risk of experiencing associated symptoms of stress and ear fullness.
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Alternative Ear Cleaning Methods
If you are going to stop using Q-tips, what can you use instead?
Thankfully, there are many options. However, lets first agree that we shouldnt be putting any objects into our ears. Earwax isnt something to be scraped away unless by a trained medical professional.
At your next checkup, ask your physician to clean your ears, and they will do so. If you want to clean your ears at home between trips to the doctor, then you have some solid options.
First, if you have hard, impacted earwax, the best thing you can do is to soften it. There are several ways to do this. Diluted medical grade hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin are all good options. Add a few drops into your ear canal allow it to sit.
Wash the earwax out gently after a couple of minutes, preferably during a warm shower. Oils can be left in, if you wish, and their presence may work to soften troublesome earwax over hours and days, making it leave the ear canal naturally.
You can also use the following high quality products. These are tailored for those with specific needs.
- Ear Drops from Progressive Labs helps to relieve occasional earache pain with a blend of all-natural ingredients.
- D-89-1 Ear Drops from Dynamic Nutritional is a homeopathic ear drop formula for ear infections and earaches. A great natural option for helping ear infections!
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Bacterial Infections And Ear Wax Self
Improper self-cleaning to remove ear wax can lead to an infection of the middle ear, or otitis media. A bacterial infection typically requires an antibiotic treatment, and with an antibiotic drug that specifically targets the organism causing the infection. Three of the most common bacteria associated with middle ear infections in adults are:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Staphylococcus aureus
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Diy Tips For Cleaning Your Ears
If youre still using a cotton swab to clean your ears, now is the time to stop! There are many recent news stories outlining the dangers of inserting cotton swabs into the ear canal, among them irritation, infection, even a perforated eardrum. So how do you clean your ears safely at home? Here are some do-it-yourself cleaning tips.
What Is The Best Way To Clean My Ears
In Hearing Loss by Dr. Arica Black, AuDMay 27, 2020
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Earwax is a natural part of the ears processes and it serves quite a few important functions. Firstly, earwax acts as a lubricant, keeping our ear canals from becoming dried out, irritated, and itchy. Secondly, earwax is a sticky physical barrier to dust and debris that may otherwise make its way inside our ear canals. Earwax works as a trap to collect this debris to keep it from moving further down the canal towards our eardrums where it has the potential to cause issues. Thirdly, earwax also contains antibacterial properties that help protect our ear canals and inner ears from developing infections.
Even though earwax is an important function of our body, most of us dont like to see any of it built up in our ear canals or outer ears. For the most part, our ears are pretty good at cleaning themselves, and do not often require much cleaning from us. For many people, the body wash or shampoo rinsing from our hair in the shower is efficient for cleaning the ears. Others may find that they want to further clean their ears. If this is you, there are some ways to safely clean your ears at home.
Do NOT put objects of any kind in your ears!
Do NOT use ear candles.
Do use a warm washcloth.
Do use oils to soften the wax.
Do dry your ears.
Do reach out to your doctor with any concerns.
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Ways To Clean Your Ears
The contentious cotton bud has been a household staple since 1923, but it was never invented with the intention of cleaning ears. If you regularly use cotton buds, there is a risk that you will damage your eardrums and cause permanent hearing loss.
A recent story has gone viral about a woman, named Jasmine, who nearly died because she used cotton buds to clean her ears every night. It was eventually discovered that Jasmine had developed moderate hearing loss over a period of five years from a severe bacterial infection, resulting in the need for surgery to treat the infection.
The infection was caused by fibers from the cotton buds becoming lodged in Jessicas ear due to her pressing down too far and too regularly. Thankfully Jessica has recovered although she does continue to suffer from an ongoing hearing loss.
Cotton swabs were invented by a Polish-American man named Leo Gerstenzang, after watching his wife attach pieces of cotton to toothpicks to clean their babys outer ears and nose. Inspired by the need Leo invented the cotton bud. But somewhere along the way misinformation spread and parents began to use the cotton bud the wrong way, pushing it deep inside the ear, with the misconception this would extract the wax, when in fact it usually just pushes it further in.
Dangers Of Using Cotton Swabs
Cotton swabs are frequently the go-to choice used to clean the wax out of the ear canals of people, which initially seems like a good idea unless you understand the anatomy and physiology well.
Only the outer one-third to one-half of the ear canal makes cerumen which functions to moisturize the skin and help prevent foreign bodies from entering deeper into the ear canal. The body also has hairs and the natural growth of canal skin is from the inside out, so it is normal for cerumen to âflowâ out of the ear.
When people use cotton swabs they frequently clean out some of the wax, but also push some of it back deeper into the medial canal which cannot remove it well. It can get pushed up against the tympanic membrane and cause impactions that can impair hearing, can lead to infection and can be painful/difficult to remove.
Think of a cotton swab like the plungers used to load cannons. They can pack softer wax deeply in the ear canal against the eardrum.
If you use a cotton swab and create a formidable plug, preventing the eardrum from moving normally, it is quite easy to cause some significant hearing loss. Water can also be trapped behind these self-created wax dams and you may hear the water moving around in the ear.
When this happens, the ear will need to be lavagedwashed out by a gentle stream of warm water. Or, you will need to see your audiologist or physician, someone who can look inside your ear and remove the impaction professionally.
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There Are More Than A Few Things To Avoid When Cleaning Your Ears
The overarching rule here is to leave your ears alone except for the gentlest cleaning of the exterior parts, but the list below goes into specifics about the things you should avoid. TL DR? Dont stick anything in your ear without consulting your provider first.
Did you know that cotton swab packages often have a warning that explicitly tells you not to use them in your ears? Using them to remove earwax actually pushes wax farther into your ear, the Mayo Clinic explains. Additionally, cotton can cause tiny cuts or microabrasions in your ear, which can increase your chances of getting an ear infection, Dr. Voigt says. This is actually the opposite of what youre looking for when you set out to remove wax from your ears.
So what should you do with all those cotton swabs? A cotton swab can be used to go into the little folds of the ears, Dr. Voigt says. People also use those cotton tip applicators to apply makeup or to clean other areas of their face. But they should not be stuck into . This rule doesnt just apply to cotton swabs: Many experts say you shouldnt put anything smaller than an elbow into your ears. Yes, you read that right: an elbow.
The Importance Of A Good Shower
According to Dr. Erich Voigt, a clinical associate professor and chief of general/sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health, the best place to clean your ears is in the shower. When youre washing your hair, you can clean with a washcloth, he says.
While you can clean the outer ear folds, earlobe and back of the ear, you should not attempt to clean out the outer ear canal. Sticking anything in your ear in an attempt to clean out the earwax will do just the oppositepush earwax farther into the ear. This can cause an earwax blockage or an accidental tear or puncture of the eardrum. Known as a perforated eardrum, this injury can lead to hearing loss.
After getting out of the shower, make sure you wipe down our ears. Just dry with your towel, Dr. Voigt says. I tell people to put their finger in their towel and kind of just mark the opening of the ear. This way youll remove any unsightly wax from debris and any material that would be visible, but youre not going into the canal, which would disrupt the natural cleaning process.
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Here Are Some Tips To Remember When Cleaning Your Ears
Much like some people sweat more than others, some folks produce more earwax than others, Dr. Voigt says. For some, the wax keeps building on itselfso there are people that will create the equivalent of a Tootsie Roll of wax in their ear canal, Dr. Voigt explains. This isnt a huge deal unless you feel like youre constantly building up so much wax that you wind up with blockages that make it hard to hear.
If youre someone who is perpetually attached to your earbuds, they might help you figure out if its time to get your ears checked. If you notice a ton of wax on your earbuds every time you remove them, that means theres probably a wax buildup inside, Dr. Voigt says. If youre seeing a lot of wax and also feel like you need to use your earbuds at maximum volume, that could also be an indication that you have a blockage and could benefit from chatting with your doctor.
Before you run to the bathroom to clean your ears until they sparkle, keep in mind that a doctor is the best person to remove significant amounts of earwax from your ears. In fact, when you get overzealous about making sure your ears have no visible wax, you increase your chances of earwax blockage, the Mayo Clinic explains.
How To Properly Use Q
Using a Q-Tip to clean out the interior part of your ear is never recommended. In fact, the packaging your cotton swabs may come in will have a warning to keep the product out of your ears. The best way to use a cotton swab for cleaning is to use it on the outer ear to wipe away the wax that has made its way out of the middle ear. You can also use Q-Tips to wipe up residue or water that remains after washing your face, getting out of the shower, or leaving a swimming pool.
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Ear Hearing & Balance Audiology Services
Keep in mind that you may need to repeat this wax softening and irrigation procedure several times before the excess earwax is cleared out. The softening can also cause wax to fall and become lodged deeper into the ear canal or against the ear drum. If symptoms do not improve, see a doctor. Other methods include earwax removal kits available in stores. If you believe you have a compaction of earwax or fear there has been potential damage, and our medical staff will assist you.
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Mental Health Impact Of Hearing Loss On Senior
Hearing loss is linked to increased depression, social isolation and dementia in senior-aged adults. Findings of a Johns Hopkins Medicine research study revealed that mild hearing loss doubled the risk of developing dementia, and moderate hearing loss tripled the dementia risk. Dementia drastically diminishes overall quality-of-life. Since depression and social isolation are also linked to developing dementia in later life, taking action to preserve hearing is recommended.
Today, there are a wide variety of nearly invisible hearing aids available. If your family members and friends have been encouraging you to get a hearing aid, you have more options than ever to find one that will be comfortable for all-day wear and suit both your lifestyle and budget.
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