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Tips for Safely Cleaning Your Ears

Tips for Safely Cleaning Your Ears

It’s a common — and quite likely damaging — myth that says we should use Q-Tips for cleaning out our ears. While cotton swabs are great for wiping in between the keys of your computer, cleaning out scrapes or cuts or applying make up in some new fangled way, the tiny cotton-ended sticks should remain out of your ears – but why?

Do cotton swabs cause damage to your ears?

First and foremost, chances are that, during your act of cotton swab cleaning, you’re actually pushing wax deeper into the ear canal. The result is a buildup of earwax near your eardrum, which can actually make hearing more difficult.

Another reason to keep your ears free from cotton swabs is that inserting anything into the ear puts you at risk for rupturing the eardrum or damaging the tiny hair cells within the ear that enable you to hear. Once those hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired, causing irreversible hearing loss.

How should you clean your ears?

It is important to remember that earwax is important to the health of the outer ear canal. Earwax provides protection, lubrication and antibacterial properties; as such, some amount of earwax is supposed to be produced. If the ear canal has too little earwax, you may notice dry or itchy ears.

If you suspect you may have too much earwax, causing a buildup, a few home treatments may help you get rid of that excess wax. The driving force behind most home remedies is the notion that the earwax needs to be softer so it can drain from the outer ear canal.

Are there any over-the-counter remedies for ear cleaning?

Try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin or commercial drops into the ear. Drops will soften the wax, allowing it to be lightly wiped out with a warm, damp cloth. Irrigation with an ear syringe is another common tactic for cleaning ears. Over-the-counter syringes, sold with solution, can offer easy at-home solutions for cleaning ears of excess earwax.

If neither drops nor syringes work, contact a local hearing healthcare professional for expert help. Hearing care providers are trained to remove earwax safely and effectively, in addition to numerous other services.