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Cotton Swabs are no good

It’s very likely you’re one of those people who have q-tips (cotton swabs) in your bathroom and you use them to clean the ear wax out of your ears.  As you’re already well aware, because everyone and their dog tells you not to and it even says on the cotton swab packaging not to use them to clean your ears out.  However most people ignore this warning from even doctors and audiologists and the warning label on the package and clean wax from their ears with the swabs regardless.

The reason this is a bad idea is because, while it does remove some wax from your ears, it largely pushes the wax around and can easily compact the wax.  Additionally if the swabs aren’t 100% sterile due to exposure to air or other possible ways of contamination, you can easily put microbes in your ear causing ear infections on top of it making matters worse for you.

Clean Ears are important, but too clean is bad too

There are ways to clean your ears that are generally good for your ears, so long as you’re not making an active part of your life to clean out all the ear wax and never have wax in your ears ever.  Ear wax is slightly acidic and it’s that way for a reason.  The slight acidic nature of it assists in killing infections from bacteria and fungi that can infect your ear.  So it’s a good idea to have some wax in your ears all the same.

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So with that, why would you want to clean your ears?  For those of us with listening devices such as hearing amplifiers or hearing aids, the hearing aid itself can get gunked up with wax and if it’s pushed into wax, the listening devices don’t work as well, or don’t work at all with assisting in your hearing needs.  Plus gunked up hearing aids require additional cleaning which you should already have the tools for and the proper education from your audiologist to take proper care of them.

How to clean your ears properly

Aside from going to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor or audiologist to get your ears cleaned properly by a professional, there are other ways to clean your ears at home and I highly recommend these safer methods, especially if you can’t afford to seek a professional to do the job for you, provided you take proper care while doing it as to not rupture your eardrums.  Everything below you can get at your local pharmacy be it Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS and even most mom and pop pharmacies.

Ear Wax Removal Kits

The kit here that I’m referring to contains a little bottle of solution and a suction bulb.  What you do with this kit is you lay on your side and drop some of the solution into your ear and wait a few minutes for it to soak into the wax itself.  Then you use the bulb by squeezing the air out of it, inserting the tip gently into your ear canal and then sucking up all the wax and solution.  Do not, however, try to suction directly on your eardrum.  The eardrum only has a few thing layers to itself and it can easily be ruptured.  Follow the instructions that come with this kit.

Ear Wax Removal Tools

These come in a small box than the previous ear wax removal tool set, but in general they’re similar to cotton swabs, just without the cotton.  Again be very careful with these so you’re not trying to scoop out your eardrum itself.  One end has a scoop which you scoop out wax with, the other end has a sort of abrasive bit with how it’s shaped and textured, this is for debriding the ear canal itself and not meant to be used against the eardrum.  Just like with the previous wax removal kit above, read the instructions, they work well for a lot of people.  These two methods aren’t going to super clean your ears of all wax, and that’s a good thing, you want to keep some wax in your ears.

Soak and Wash

My personal method that I use to clean my ears.  For this you’re just literally going to only need a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a clean wash cloth and a shower.  Lay on your side and drop a few drops of hydrogen peroxide into the ear.  And yes it’s normal for it to tickle.  The peroxide is bubbling because it interacts with a protein enzyme and is actively bubbling out the larger bits of ear wax to make it able to break apart and drain out of your ear.  Just repeat this for the other ear.  You’ll sit with the peroxide in your ear for several minutes, turn and let drain into the wash cloth while the other ear is prepped and bubbled.  Once that other ear is done, turn again and let that ear drain for a few minutes as well.  Then off to the shower.  With a gentle stream of warm water, rinse your ears out.  Don’t worry about getting the extra water out of your ears by shaking your head or anything like that, it’ll drain accordingly in due time, your body will process it properly shortly.

Do ear candles work?

There are people who swear by ear candles and claim that laying on your side with the candle in your ear while it’s burning and then removing the candle that it draws the ear wax up out of your ear and into the candle.  The reality is, it doesn’t work.  In fact an audiologist even tested this out with a client of his that has regular ear wax buildup issues taking images of the ear wax in her ear before the first candle and after the second candle and zero change to the ear wax itself.  Only difference was that now there was soot from the candle in the ear canal.