As an Audiologist I get asked this question almost daily, "How do I clean my ears at home?".
Let me start by telling you what NOT to do:
Do NOT use an ear candle. These candles or “auricular cones” actually received a warning from the FDA in 2010 for a risk of burns to the head and face and for ear trauma. Believe me; you don’t want to sustain a burn to your ear. Click here to read the full article.
Do NOT use a bobby pen, car key, or any other foreign body to clean your ears. Sometimes these items carry bacteria on them, and one little scratch to the ear canal can result in a nasty infection!
Do NOT put Q-tips in your ear! This action actually can “milk” the wax glands in your ear resulting in production of more wax. Not to mention, the use of a cotton swab can push the wax further into your ear canal, eventually resulting in a wax impaction. It even says on the Q-tips label not to insert into ear canal:
What you CAN do: If you don’t have any contraindications (perforated ear drum, middle ear tubes, outer/inner ear infection) I often tell my patients to let the warm water from the shower fill up your ear and then turn your head to dump it out. Doing this on a regular basis should keep the wax soft and help to flush it out in the shower.
What if my wax is impacted or I feel “plugged up”? There are a couple of options for ear wax impaction:
When I see hard wax or impacted cerumen, I recommend over the counter drops that are specifically developed for cerumen removal. A few popular names are Audiologist's Choice, Debrox, and Murine. Follow the directions listed on the box.
One last tip I picked up from a fantastic ENT I used to work with. He recommended to mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts water. Let that mixture sit in your ear for about a minute (or until it stops fizzing) and turn your head to let it drain out. Do this twice a day for three to four days. Do not exceed three or four days or you risk changing the natural pH of the ear canal which may result in an infection.
If you have been unsuccessful at clearing your wax impaction at home, your audiologist or physician may flush you ear with water or remove the wax with specialized tools. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information at Compass Hearing Center in Denver City, Texas.