How to Properly Clean Ear Wax Without Damaging Your Ear Drum

Health Tips
3 mins
How to Properly Clean Ear Wax Without Damaging Your Ear Drum

A personal grooming technique often performed, but seldom talked about, is the cleaning of one’s ears. Many people use the cotton swab technique, while some even use ear candles. But are these approaches to ear wax removal safe? If you’re wondering how to clean ear wax without damaging your eardrum, there are a few ways to do it.

Is Ear Wax Removal Necessary?

Across the board, doctors generally agree that inserting anything into your ears is a bad idea. When a person cleans their ears with a cotton swab, they might remove ear wax. But, they’re also inevitably causing some of that wax to jam up inside the ear canal. 

The medical term for what is commonly called earwax is cerumen. This is the buildup of wax inside your ears. It is a normal bodily function that lubricates the ear. In addition, it also protects your ears from an infection brought on by dust and bacteria. If it weren’t for cerumen, you might regularly experience an itchy sensation or dryness in your ears.

Human ears generally take care of themselves, thanks in part to ear wax. If you experience a buildup of cerumen on the outside of your ear canals, you can soften or remove it carefully. 

How NOT To Remove Excess Ear Wax

Cotton swabs may seem harmless, but they can sometimes do damage to the inner ear canal. In a worst-case scenario, when too much pressure is applied, a cotton swab can rupture a person’s eardrum and/or cause hearing loss. When cleaning your ears, do not insert or push a cotton swab into your ear canal. 

If you’re experiencing excess ear wax, there are other methods of treatment.

How To Remove Ear Wax

As previously mentioned, ear wax removal is mostly unnecessary. In addition to acting as a protector against bacteria and other germs, ear wax keeps the ear canal from getting saturated with water. If you didn’t have ear wax, you’d be much more prone to infections like swimmer’s ear.

The human body naturally rids itself of cerumen. Ear wax tends to fall out of the deep part of the ear canal when you chew or move your jaw. Once on the outer rims of the ear, cerumen shakes out in your sleep or during other times of the day. As an added bonus, earwax brings debris and dead skin cells out of the ears. When this happens, it means your ears are working in the way that they should. 

If you feel like you have to remove earwax, use a warm washcloth to wipe the outer rim off your ears. You may also apply baby oil or hydrogen peroxide to the outer ear to help soften the cerumen, allowing it to naturally fall out.

However, if you believe earwax is impacting your daily life and ability to hear, seek medical attention.

What To Do If You Have Impacted Cerumen

Earwax buildup is rare, but it can happen. Known as impacted cerumen, it can cause pain in the ear or a sensation of a plugged ear. Partial hearing loss, coughing, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), itching, discharge, or any smell coming from the ear could also be signs of impacted cerumen. If you have any of these symptoms, you might want to consult a physician.

Depending on the diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe medication like carbamide peroxide. This is an eardrop applied twice a day, for up to four days. Or, a doctor might be able to remove the cerumen by using a bulb syringe.

BASS Medical has an entire otolaryngology department that is dedicated to ailments that occur in the ear, nose, and throat. If you have further questions about how to clean ear wax or any other medical condition, the staff at BASS Medical can help.