What Causes Ear Wax?
While ear wax can be problematic, it is produced for good reason and plays an important role in your general health. Ear wax protects the ear against intrusion by bacteria and other external irritants as well as acting as a lubricant.
In normal amounts, ear wax, medicinally known as cerumen, is healthy and necessary and you should exercise care before deciding to extract it. In an ideal world, you should not need to clean the wax out of your ears. The ear canals typically clean themselves; earwax gradually moves from the ear canal to the opening of the ear where it dries and drops out of its own accord.
What you should not do
- Don’t probe your ear with Q-tips/Cotton swabs
If you have excessive wax in your ear which has become problematic and you have decided to get rid of it, you need to take great care in your removal method. A number of traditional ear cleaning techniques can cause far more problems than they treat.Ear wax is produced in the outer structure of the ear canal rather than deeper down near your eardrum. A wax build up causing a blockage next to the eardrum typically indicates that you have been pushing down on the wax with some sort of implement like cotton swabs which many people still misguidedly use to remove ear wax. You must not use cotton swabs or any other object that will only serve to force the wax deeper into your ears.
- Avoid using ear candles
Ear candles should not be used to remove wax; they are unsafe and might cause serious injury from burns or further obstruction of the canal caused by the candle wax. They can also cause perforation of the membrane between the middle ear and the canal. There is no evidence that ear candles are effective and the FDA has voiced its concern regarding their safety.
When you should clean your ears
I mentioned earlier in the article that under ideal circumstances you should not need to clean your ears, however there are situations where it will be necessary. When so much earwax builds up in your ears that it begins to cause problematic symptoms, it is time for action. This excessive wax build-up known as cerumen impaction may cause one or even more of these symptoms:
- A feeling of fullness or plugging of the ear
- Partial loss of hearing
- Odor or discharge
- Tinnitus which can be wither a ringing or other noise in the ear
If you are affected by any of the symptoms listed above, then it might be time for you to clean out the wax; there are a number of ways that you can effectively accomplish this before resorting to a doctor’s appointment.
The best and most recommended methods of getting rid of excessive ear wax involves first gently softening the wax to aid in its extraction rather than probing the ear with a long object.
1. Salt Water Solution
Using a salt water solution is a safe and highly effective method of removing excess wax from the ear.
- Add a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and wait until the salt dissolves completely.
- Use your saline mixture to soak a cotton ball.
- Tilt your head and squeeze a few drop of the solution into your affected ear.
- Find a comfortable way of staying in this position with your head tilted for a minimum of 3 minutes.
- After 3 or so minutes, tilt your ear towards the floor allowing the solution to flow out.
- Finally use a clean cloth to remove any softened wax on your outer ear.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Another effective method for removing excessive earwax at home is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can soften the wax making it easy to remove owing to its carbonated quality. If you choose to remove your earwax with hydrogen peroxide, this is what you should do:
- Mix 3% hydrogen peroxide with an equal amount of water and pour it into a ear dropper.
- Tilt your head so that the affected ear is facing the ceiling and put a couple of drops of the solution into your affected ear.
- Hold your head in place for around 3 to 5 minutes and then turn your head to allow the solution to drip out of your ear.
- Clean the wax from the outer ear with a clean cloth.
Note that carbomide peroxide is also an effective method of ear wax removal and can be used instead of hydrogen peroxide.
3. Baking Soda
Many people will have some baking soda on hand at home and it can be safely used to soften any build-up of wax to aid in its removal.
- Put a quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass or bowl and mix it with 2 teaspoons of clean water and put the solution into a dropper.
- Drop a few drops of the solution into your affected ear.
- Leave the solution to do its job and for 7 to 10 minutes.
- Use a syringe to flush the ear with clean warm water.
- Drain the solution from the ear by tilting your ear towards the ground.
- Again, clean the wax from the outer part of the ear with a clean cloth.
4. Baby oil
It’s not only for babies; it can be used to effectively soften any hard earwax build-up before removal.
- Put your baby oil into a medicine or ear dropper.
- Tilt your head so that your ear is facing the ceiling and squeeze between 3 and 5 drops into the affected ear.
- Wait 5 minutes or so before draining the oil from your ear by tilting your head towards the floor.
- Use a cloth or cotton ball to remove any excess wax from your outer ear.
5. Olive Oil
Like baby oil, olive oil is able to soften earwax enabling its removal.
- Warm a little olive oil and put it into an ear dropper.
- Tilt your head and squeeze 3 or 4 drops of the warm oil into the affected ear.
- Leave the oil to work on the ear for around 10 minutes.
- Gently remove the oil and any excess wax from your ear with a cotton ball or a clean cloth.
6. Almond Oil
Almond oil performs a similar function by softening the waxy build-up in your ear before facilitating its removal.
- Fill an ear dropper or medicine dropper with almond oil.
- Tilt your head and squeeze 4 or 5 drops of almond oil into the affected ear.
- Let the oil work for around 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes or so, tilt your head in the other direction and allow the oil and wax to drain from your ear.
- Clean your outer ear and wash away any excess wax with a clean cloth or cotton ball.
7. Rubbing alcohol and Vinegar Solution
This is a very traditional treatment for ear wax that has been successfully used for many years by softening the hard wax in your ears. The antibacterial properties of the vinegar will also help prevent any fungal or bacterial ear infections.
- Prepare the solution by mixing vinegar and rubbing alcohol in equal measures in a bowl.
- Put a cotton ball into the mixture and let it soak.
- Tilt your head and ear to the ceiling and squeeze a few drops into the affected ear.
- Wait for at least 5 minutes and then tilt your head the other way so that the solution and wax is allowed to drain out of the ear.
- Use a clean cloth to cleanse the outer ear.
- When you should see a doctor
Hopefully, you will be able to clear up your earwax build-up with one or some of the home remedies presented above but if you have tried some of them and you are still suffering from the symptoms of cerumen impaction, it may well be time to seek medical advice.
Your doctor might prescribe eardrops specifically to soften the wax in your ear or might wash or even vacuum the wax out. If you suffer from repeated cerumen (wax) impaction, your doctor might schedule check-ups once or twice a year.