Earwax seems like one of the more unpleasant features of the human body, but it’s actually very important for your overall health. That gunky yellow goo has a very important purpose! It keeps dust and debris out of the ear canal so that your eardrums are protected from damage or infection. It can even keep pesky gnats or other bugs from getting down into the ear. Even though it’s important to protect your hearing, earwax can actually cause problems if it builds up and gets impacted. This can create a dangerous blockage deep inside the ear canal that results in hearing loss, constant ringing noise, dizziness, or pain. Earwax buildup doesn’t mean you have something wrong with you, it happens to everyone. In fact, it’s one of the most common ear-related complaints that doctors see each year. When earwax builds up, you can’t just leave it in there! It needs to come out, but what’s the right way to remove it?
When you notice earwax buildup, your first instinct might be to reach for a cotton swab and use it to remove the excess wax. Experts agree that is a big no-no. Using a cotton swab or other object to manually clean out your ears can actually push much of the wax deeper into your ear canal. If you push too far, you could puncture your eardrum and cause permanent damage. Stay away from the cotton swabs when it comes to removing earwax.
A lot of people visit doctors to have their earwax professionally removed each year. Others use home remedies or ear candling to get rid of the wax buildup. Many doctors don’t actually recommend ear candling as they say it can cause hot wax to drop down into the ear, or even cause burns or push wax further down. However, some people swear by it and say it’s the only method that works for them.
In most cases, doctors advise leaving the wax alone unless it is an aesthetic issue or unless you are someone who suffers from frequent excessive buildup. If it is causing you pain or hearing loss, then you can look at having it removed. If your earwax is more of an annoyance than anything else, you can probably get it out at home. If you want to get rid of excess earwax yourself, there are several things you can safely try.
Olive Oil Drops
This home remedy is one of the most popular and it works quickly. Simply put a few drops of warmed olive oil into the ear and allow it to sit there for about 30 seconds. Many people place a cotton ball over the opening of the ear to keep the oil inside. Then tilt the ear with the drops over toward the floor, and let the oil run back out onto a paper towel or washcloth. Some of the wax should come out with the oil. You can also do this with mineral oil or even baby oil. If you need to, you can flush out the ear with water to remove any leftover wax.
Commercial Ear Drops
You can purchase eardrops at any drug store. Wax removal kits usually include a bulb syringe and a small vial of eardrops. To remove wax, you lie down with the ear pointed up and apply a few drops of the solution directly in the ear canal. You will need to remain still for 5-10 minutes while the drops dissolve any buildup. Then use the bulb syringe to gently rinse out your ear with warm water. You can even find homeopathic drops to treat earaches or swimmer’s ear. Always follow manufacturer directions when you use these products. In most cases, you will need to use drops for three or four days before you notice any difference.
Visit the Doctor
If you don’t notice a difference or if you feel that impacted wax is clogging your ear canal, it’s time to call the doctor. Symptoms like ear pain or a feeling of fullness in the ear should not be ignored. The doctor can rule out an ear infection or other issues inside the ear canal. If the problem is simply wax impaction, the doctor will use a special instrument to remove the ball of wax in the office.
If you’re a parent, resist the urge to put a Q-tip down in your child’s ear to remove earwax. Have the doctor check for any blockages and show you how to properly remove any wax that flakes out. Even children’s “safety” swabs aren’t recommended as they pose the same risk as regular cotton swabs. If you notice any type of drainage coming from your child’s ear, call their doctor. It might be a sign of something more serious going on.
Earwax is one of those body issues we all face daily. As with any type of personal hygiene, it shouldn’t be a hassle to take care of if you stay on top of it and follow the above tips. If you have further questions about safely removing it, contact a medical professional.