September 9, 2014

Earwax and Cleaning Your Ears

What Is Earwax?

Cerumen, more commonly known as earwax, is healthy for your ears in normal amounts. Glands in the ear canal produce earwax, which helps trap dust and dirt particles from making its way to the eardrum. It serves as a self-cleaning agent that can protect and lubricate the ear canal. Without earwax, the ear canal may be dry and itchy. While everyone produces earwax, the amount can vary greatly. For most people, earwax naturally works its way out of the ear. It is transported by jaw motion from the ear canal to the outer ear where it dries and falls out.

Should I Use Q-Tips To Clean My Earwax?

Earwax is formed in the outer 1/3 of the ear canal. When cerumen impaction occurs deep in the ear canal at the eardrum, it is often the result of the individual pushing the wax deeper with things such as q-tips or bobby pins. You should never probe into your ear canal to remove wax. Injury to your eardrum can occur as a result of probing in the ear canal. Some medications, stress and exercise can cause the body to process excessive earwax. Symptoms of earwax impaction can include decreased hearing, ear pain, plugged or fullness sensation, tinnitus, itching or dizziness.


How Should I Keep My Ears Clean?

If you notice earwax buildup in your ears, there are safe, at home ways to soften the wax. Patients can place a few drops of mineral oil, commercial cerumen softening drops or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water drops in the ear over the course of a few days. If deep impaction has occurred, softening the wax alone will most likely not remove all of the wax. A person who has an eardrum perforation should not use eardrops to soften their earwax.

Many licensed medical providers have the ability to manually remove earwax. Different methods include suction, water irrigation, or curette removal. The method used varies from person to person depending on the condition of their ear. Consult a physician if you are unsure if you have cerumen impaction. Ear candles are not a safe option to remove earwax. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not approve use of these products.

There is no way to prevent excessive earwax. Individuals who are prone to cerumen impaction should see a doctor at regular intervals to have routine ear cleanings. If you believe you may have cerumen impaction in either ear, contact Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute to set up an appointment for removal by our physician or physician’s assistant.


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