Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a naturally-occurring substance that has many benefits. It is a lubricant that prevents your ear from becoming dry and itchy, and it also protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and bacteria. Earwax does not need to be removed unless it becomes impacted, but some people consider it to be unsightly and try unsafe methods to remove it. Below is a guide for safe earwax removal at home.
What Not to Do
Earwax is rarely a problem, unless it becomes impacted. Unfortunately, the way most people clean their ears puts them at increased risk of impacted earwax.
Under no circumstances should you insert a cotton swab, hairpin, paper clip, pen, straw or any other device into the ear to remove wax. Not only do you risk pushing earwax further into the ear, you can also rupture your eardrum.
The rule of thumb is you should never insert anything smaller than your finger into your ear canal.
What to Do
There are three steps for safe earwax removal at home. It is important to note that you should not try this method if you have tubes surgically placed in your ears or if you have a ruptured eardrum.
First, Soften the Wax
Over-the-counter eardrops are available to soften earwax, but you can also place a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide or saline solution into your ear.
Second, Irrigate with Warm Water
Wait until the wax is soft – this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to two days depending on the type of earwax and degree of impaction. Using a rubber-bulb syringe, gently squirt warm water into your ear canal. Do not use hot water, which can burn you, or cold water, which can make you dizzy.
While irrigating, tilt your head and pull your outer ear up and back to straighten your ear canal. Hold a towel or bowl under your ear to prevent water from going everywhere. After each ear, tilt your head so the water can drain out.
Third, Dry the Ear
Once you’ve finished irrigating, gently dry your outer ear with a towel, or use a hair dryer on a low heat setting. You can also put a few drops of rubbing alcohol into the ear to dry it out, but be careful not to use too much, as it can dry your ear out and cause it to feel itchy.
When to Call a Doctor
If you have impacted earwax that is not resolved with the above method, schedule an appointment with an ENT (ear, nose, throat) physician who can remove the wax safely and effectively.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at House Providence Hearing Health Centers today.