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Ear wax removal and care: What to and not to do

  • Posted on- Aug 04, 2015
  • 3155 Views

The ears are very delicate organs which need proper care, but we often tend to ignore them. Earwax build-up is one of the problems that occur due to lack of care. Ear wax is a sticky waxy substance that is secreted by the glands in the ear canal. It usually contains dead skin, oil and sweat. The primary function of earwax is to protect the ear from bacterial infections, dust and water. Ear wax can be classified into wet and dry wax. Wet wax can either be soft or hard. When the hard wax gets stuck inside the ear, it becomes very difficult to remove. This kind of wax is called 'impacted earwax'. Different people produce different quantities of ear wax. Too much earwax may often block the ears and cause muffled hearing or temporary hearing loss. Bacteria that may remain trapped along with the wax inside the ear canal can put a person at the risk of developing an ear infection.

What not to do while removing ear wax

Removing earwax is a common hygienic practice, but most people often use a cotton swab, their fingers, pins, etc., for this purpose. However, this is a very unwise thing to do, as it may lead to injury or hearing loss, and most importantly, it only pushes the wax further inside the ear canal. That is why these methods are not recommended by doctors. A lot of people also think that ear wax removal is not necessary as the ears are equipped to naturally clean themselves. This is not at all true.

Home remedies for ear wax removal

Ear wax removal can be done at home itself. Here are some methods that you can try:

  • Oils: One of the best methods would be to use some warm oil, like baby oil or olive oil. Do make sure that the oil is not too hot. A few drops of oil can be put in the affected ear canal, while holding that side up. Leave it inside for around 5 minutes, and then turn over the other way around to let the oil drip out onto a towel. This will help further if it is done after a shower.
  • Ear Drops: There are some over-the-counter ear drops that might also be helpful (preferably antibiotic and anti-inflammatory). Put a few drops of wax softener for 4 or 5 days, and then use a rubber bulb syringe to squirt warm water into the ear canal. This will help the wax drip out along with the water. After that, a cotton ball can be used to dry out all the water.
  • Glycerine and hydrogen peroxide are both safe and easy to use. Ear drops should however be of room temperature, as instilling ear drops that are too warm or too cold might damage the eardrum. It is advised to visit an ENT specialist to get your ears cleaned, as they use special tools designed for this very purpose without causing any injury or harm.

Medical treatment for ear wax removal

  • Ear Irrigation/Lavage: In this method, the ENT doctor will first soften the wax over a period of 5 days using wax-dissolving agents. Saline water and an electronic irrigator will then be used to wash out the wax. However, this procedure cannot be performed on people who have a perforated eardrum, a middle ear infection, or have undergone any surgery.
  • Special Instruments: If the previous procedure does not work or cannot be used, the ENT doctor will use an otoscope, metal speculum, and a special instrument called a curette to extract the wax.
  • Suction Process: When none of the aforementioned procedures work, the wax is sucked out using a small suction tube. This procedure is comparatively quite uncomfortable and noisy. It should be performed by an ENT specialist only.

It is recommended that earwax removal should be done every six months to one year, depending upon the level of secretion of the concerned individual. Also, if you are not too sure of adopting any procedure for yourself, the best thing is to get it done by an ENT doctor.