Everybody has ear wax, but it’s not generally something we talk about. That’s maybe why there is so much confusion about this important part of the ear and how to manage it. Forget what you’ve heard or been taught. These are the do’s and don’ts of removing ear wax.
What is ear wax
Ear wax is a waxy substance also known as cerumen. It is produced in the outer ear canal with the sole purpose of helping to protect the ear with its sticky consistency and antibacterial properties. Amount and appearance can vary from person to person.
While earwax can prove a frustrating annoyance for some, it does play an essential role in keeping bacteria out of the ear and the ear canal clean of dead skin cells, dust and other particles that find their way into the ear. After the wax is secreted, it makes its way slowly down the ear canal, capturing these particles as it goes. This is why ear wax may be better left alone to do its job.
The do’s and don’ts of ear wax removal
Even knowing the important role ear wax plays in protecting our ears, it can be tempting to want it gone. It’s crucial to know that there are right and wrong ways to manage ear wax. Some of the most common steps people take can pose the most risk to our ears and hearing health.
- Don’t use cotton swabs: These and other small tools people commonly use to clean or scratch in the ear canal can do permanent damage either by impacting the ear wax, damaging the eardrum or scratching the delicate skin of the ear canal and causing an infection. Instead, do leave ear wax alone to do its job by cleaning just outside the ear. If you believe you have excessive build up, over the counter ear drops are available to help manage it.
- Don’t overclean ears: It seems counterintuitive, but hearing healthcare providers suggest leaving the earwax to do its job. In many cases, an ear canal that is too clean can be uncomfortable and itchy without its protective layer of ear wax. Instead, do see ear wax for the naturally soothing salve that it is.
- Don’t use ear candles: Like cotton swabs, many people turn to ear candles to manage ear wax, but these can also prove dangerous. If you believe you have an excessive buildup of earwax, do see a hearing healthcare provider for treatment.
- Don’t skip the hearing aid cleanings: It can be easy to let recommended cleanings fall by the wayside, but this can pose problems for both your hearing aids and your ear health. Do thoroughly clean your hearing aids each night to remove ear wax buildup on the device and allow ear wax to do its job in the ear.
If you believe you have extra ear wax that can’t be managing with these suggestions, it may be time for a professional ear wax cleaning or removal – hearing health care professionals can often complete these procedures and can safely and effectively remove the ear wax.
If you have questions about your hearing health and removing ear wax, contact our office to learn more. Our team can direct you to the best in-home ear wax removal solutions or make a recommendation for a professional cleaning.