Tips for Cleaning Your Ears

In Care and Maintenance, Hearing Health, Tips and Tricks by Ed Kocher, ACA, BC-HIS

Ed Kocher, ACA, BC-HIS
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Although many of us are tempted to take drastic measures, very little is necessary to keep a healthy ear clean. Cotton swabs look like the perfect device to clean earwax, but in fact they can do much more harm than good. In order to best clean your ears, it is important to have an understanding of the function of earwax. Unsightly though it may be, earwax performs a crucial function of keeping your ear canal moisturized and lubricated while also trapping harmful debris, dirt, or bacteria before it can proceed to the sensitive parts of the ear more deeply embedded. 

With this essential function in mind, the most beneficial practice you can put in place for ear cleaning is not to do too much! Let’s consider two types of ears—one that has a healthy earwax balance and another that has earwax buildup or an impacted mass in the ear canal. If you find that your ears are in the latter category, it is best to consult with your doctor or hearing health professional about the appropriate steps you can take at home, as well as the point at which you should seek expert assistance. 

Healthy Ear Maintenance

If your ears have a generally healthy balance of earwax, you need to do little more than clean the outer ear. A damp cloth in the shower is the best tool you can use to wipe out the folds of the outer ear. This cloth should be thick enough that you do not press any further into the ear canal than the terrycloth can go. A little warm water in the ear canal is not a bad thing, so use this damp cloth to use warm water to clean only the outer ear. The rest of the ear should take care of itself. You will note that cotton swabs are not necessary for cleaning in this case. The earwax balance inside the ear can be maintained on its own, and you can remove the unsightly wax that emerges from the canal. 

Earwax Blockage

If you have any of the symptoms of earwax blockage within the ear canal, there are a couple at-home remedies you can safely explore. The symptoms of earwax blockage include discomfort and feelings of fullness in the ear canal, reduced or muffled hearing, and earaches. Even under these circumstances, you should not insert anything into the ear canal. Instead an eyedropper is your best solution. Simply place a few drops of baby oil, glycerin, mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, or saline into the ear. Tilt your head to one side, and allow the drops to enter the ear canal. Only a couple drops are necessary for this method. You can allow this solution to remain in the ear for 30 minutes to one day. Once this solution has had time to soften the hard earwax blockage in the ear, a syringe with warm clean water is your next tool. Flush the ear with the contents of the syringe, then pull your outer ear to straighten the ear canal. Once the warm water has filled the outer ear to the point of the blockage, tip your head back in the direction of the ear, allowing all the water to drain out of the ear, and dry with a clean towel. You can perform this method a few days in a row to see if you can soften and allow the blockage to break up and return to a healthy earwax balance. 

Impacted Earwax

If these simple at-home remedies do not do the trick, it is time to consult with your doctor. Only a doctor should be trusted to remove impacted earwax in the ear canal, and putting objects into the canal tends to do more harm than good. With the right cleaning, your ears can do their own task of providing moisture and protection while also remaining clean. 

If you are a swimmer, there are other steps you can take to make sure that bacteria does not accumulate in the ear canal, so consult with your doctor about special protective and cleaning steps you can take for swimmers. With these tips in mind, you should be able to keep your ears clean and healthy with minimal interference!

If you have noticed changes in your hearing, visit us for a hearing test! A physical examination can reveal whether there is impacted earwax that requires removal. Our hearing tests also give you good baseline information on your hearing and can help you keep tabs on your hearing abilities for the years to come.