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Ear Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

Ear Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

Cleaning your ears is a simple task that takes just a minute or two. But there are right ways and wrong ways to clean your ears to best remove earwax and prevent injury or wax impaction. These ear cleaning do’s and don’ts will help keep your ears healthy.

Don’t: Use cotton swabs

You may have done a double take when reading this first “Don’t” on the list. Most people use cotton swabs incorrectly and stick the swab in the ear canal. This is not the way to clean your ears! It says right on the package, “Do not put swab in ear canal.” It’s a habit worth breaking. The cotton can irritate your ear canal and actually may push earwax further in your ear rather than remove it.

Do: Keep your outer ear clean

Ears are self-cleaning. Earwax forms near the outer parts of the ear canal and most people require just a wipe of the outer ear with a washcloth or tissue a couple times a week. This simple procedure should keep excess earwax from forming and possibly building up near the eardrum.

Don’t: Make your own ear cleaners

It’s tempting for some people to use a hairpin or a pen to remove earwax. Don’t do it! Any pointed object can bruise your eardrum or tear a hole in it. As the old saying goes, “Never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.”

Do: Use products recommended by hearing care providers

If earwax build-up is a problem due to overproduction, there are several at-home remedies available. It’s important to discuss these options with your hearing care provider to ensure they’re safe and effective. Gently irrigating your ears in the shower or bath may help remove earwax. If that doesn’t work, a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil are safe to use once or twice a week. Irrigation kits are available in stores or a health care professional has tools for earwax removal.

Don’t: Ignore ear problems

If your ears itch a lot, have a bad odor or are painful, these could be signs of an impaction or wax blockage of the ear canal. Earaches, ringing in the ears or a plugged-up feeling are also symptoms of a potential problem.

If you wear hearing aids, you may notice an increase in wax production. It’s important to properly clean your hearing aids and your ears.

Do: Visit your hearing care professional

If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s important to have your ears checked. Hearing care professionals have special drops or irrigation tools and other methods of removing earwax safely.

Ear cleaning is not complicated and should take just a few minutes at home. For most people, a daily cleaning is not necessary. A simple wipe of the outer ear and avoiding sticking objects in the ear canal most often is enough to maintain healthy ears.