How To Clean Your Ears the Right Way
Everyone has earwax. And though you may be obsessed with removing the sticky brown goop from your ear, earwax is actually an important tool for protecting the ear against damage and infections. Earwax, or cerumen, is a protective substance that is produced by glands in the outer third of the ear canal. Earwax acts as a filter between the ear and the outside environment, trapping dust, dirt and other particles so they cannot go deeper into the ear canal. Earwax also serves to moisturize the skin of the ear canal and has properties that fight infection.
What happens when too much wax builds up in your ears?
Typically, earwax finds its way out of the ear canal naturally. It can either fall out or wash away during normal activities. But in some cases, earwax can completely fill the ear canal, which is called a cerumen impaction. Cerumen impaction can cause a person to feel that they aren’t hearing as well, ear pressure or pain, and tinnitus or buzzing in the ears. If water becomes lodged deep into an earwax buildup, then otitis externa, or an outer ear infection can occur. This is also known as Swimmer’s ear.
How to treat earwax buildup
Most of the time, ears are self-cleaning. But if you feel like you have excess earwax you can use over-the-counter wax removal kits, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide to soften your earwax. If using these products does not fix the issue then there are a couple of places that you can go. An ENT (otolaryngologist) will remove the wax for you. Sometimes your PCP (primary care physician) will flush your ears out. You can also have the wax removed by an audiologist.
Tips to maintain healthy ears
Ears usually maintain themselves, but here are a few ways you can protect them from infection:
- Use a washcloth to wipe and clean the outside of your ears.
- Never put cotton swabs (Q-tip), hairpins or any small objects into your ears.
Nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ear. These items can result in further impaction of earwax or injury to the ear canal or even the eardrum.
- Use earplugs or earbuds judiciously. People who use earbuds or wear hearing aids are more likely to have an earwax buildup.
- Don’t use ear candling as a method to reduce earwax. It can be dangerous, and it can result in burns to the ear or face.