But only if it’s necessary
I’m one of those people whose ears make a lot of earwax, and it builds up and causes problems if I don’t remove it two or three times a year.
I’ve had it done by nurses and doctors and medical assistants in the past. Now I have a simple, inexpensive and safe routine to remove earwax at home.
HOWEVER, it’s important to say that most people DON’T need to clean out their ears. Earwax is both normal and useful—it protects the delicate eardrum from dust, germs and water. Because it’s oily (but not actually wax) it also lubricates your ear canal.
Ears are also designed to be self cleaning. Earwax gradually moves itself out of your ears.
Earwax is only a problem if you make a lot of it (like me) and it gets impacted. Then you notice a feeling a fullness and minor loss of hearing. Water can also get trapped behind the wax plug and increase the risk of infection.
Earwax is more likely to become impacted if you wear earbuds frequently, use hearing aids, or if you use cotton swabs (or any other object) to try and clean your ear canal. Remember this rule: Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. 😉
Tips to remove earwax
These tips are for adults who know they have an earwax problem and don’t want to spend the time or money to have it removed at the doctor’s office.
Don’t attempt to remove your own earwax if you have ear pain, or you’re unsure what’s causing your ear/hearing problems. Talk to your health care provider.
I use these three things:
- mineral oil with an eye dropper
- a bulb syringe (also called an ear syringe)
- a basin
Two or three days before I remove the earwax, I put a couple drops of mineral oil in each ear. The oil helps dissolve and soften the plug. Olive oil or hydrogen peroxide will also work.
This may be the only step needed; softer earwax is more likely to be removed naturally.
I fill the basin with room-temperature water, or at least as close to room temp as possible. Water that is either too hot or too cold can not only be uncomfortable, but can also trigger a vertigo attack.
Standing at the sink and using the bulb syringe, I suck up the lukewarm water, position the tip of the syringe just inside my ear canal (not too deep or it might hit my eardrum), and gently squeeze the water out. I do this 4-5 times. Sometimes I see a big plug of earwax drop into the sink. Other times it’s just small flakes.
Then I tilt my head to the side to help the excess water run out.
After I’ve done both ears, I dry my ears with my hairdryer set on low heat.
Over-the-counter earwax removal products
There are a lot of earwax removal products on the market.
Again, most people don’t need to use anything, so save your money!
If you don’t already have a bulb syringe in your medicine cabinet, some of the kits include one along with a small bottle of the earwax softener. But it’s cheaper to buy the syringe separately, along with some inexpensive mineral oil.
There is another product that looks like a spray bottle with an attachment that goes into your ear. I haven’t tried one of these, but it doesn’t look like it would be as effective as a bulb syringe.
Don’t waste your money on the ear “vacuums” for sale in the drugstores. While many ear specialists will use a suction device on particularly tough earwax plugs, the over-the-counter vacuums are too weak to be of any real use.
Don’t buy products that use picks or curettes. These thin and sharp tools can easily poke a hole in your eardrum! A doctor may need to use one, but they should never be used at home.
And don’t use a Water-Pik or similar device. The jets of water are surprisingly strong and can cause injury and pain.
Lastly, I see ear candling recommended as a “natural” way to remove earwax. Yikes. Not only do ear candles not work, they are dangerous. There is nothing natural about using open flames around your hair and face (hair is flammable, by the way).
Your eardrums are very sensitive, so treat them gently. When in doubt, talk to your health care provider.