The Proper Way to Clean Out Your EarsPosted: January 5, 2011
Earwax lubricates the ear’s delicate skin and traps germs and debris. When you talk or eat, jaw motion pushes excess wax out of the ear canal to the point where it is visible. It can then be wiped away with a damp cloth or swab.
But: Sometimes the ear gets clogged as wax builds up. Do not try to dig wax out of the ear canal — this could abrade the skin, inviting infection… compact wax further… or puncture the eardrum. Better…
Wax may get stuck if it’s too dry. To soften it, once a week use an eyedropper to place two drops of unscented baby oil in each ear.
Clogs may occur if you secrete excess wax or have narrow ear canals.
To unclog: Tilt your head sideways, clogged ear up, and drip an eyedropperful of body-temperature water into the ear. Wait five minutes… tilt to the other side to drain… suction out the ear with an infant nasal aspirator. Repeat twice daily for up to three days. If you want, you can try an over-the-counter product that dissolves earwax — but usually this is unnecessary because earwax is water-soluble.
See a doctor if… the above methods don’t help, hearing is impaired or you hear ringing. Your doctor can remove excess wax with irrigation, suction and/or a tiny looped instrument using a magnifier for guidance. Also, to minimize infection risk, leave earwax removal to a doctor if you have a perforated eardrum or diabetes.
Cautions: Never irrigate an ear with a dental device, such as Water Pik — the pressure could rupture the eardrum. Never try ear candling, a procedure that involves placing one end of a hollow candle in the ear and lighting the other, supposedly to create suction — it does not work and can cause burns even if done professionally.
Source: Richard M. Rosenfeld, MD, MPH, professor and chairman of otolaryngology, Long Island College Hospital and State University of New York-Downstate, both in Brooklyn, and editor-in-chief of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.