Too Much Of a Good Thing?

Earwax is, well, pretty gross, so it’s no wonder most of us reach for cotton swabs on a regular basis. But here’s the rub: There’s a good chance you’re putting your ears and your hearing at risk with every wax removal attempt.

The human body produces ear wax as a protective measure (keeping out bacteria, bugs, and dirt), but sometimes too much ear wax is produced. When that happens, you have two choices:

  • Suffer from deafness (yes, the ear wax can clog your ears and reduce hearing).
  • Clean your ears!

Given the options, it seems a pretty simple choice right?


Should you clean your ears in the first place?

According to entnet,Cerumen or earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears.

Self-cleaning means there is a slow and orderly movement of earwax and dead skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening. Old earwax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear canal to the ear opening where, most of the time, it dries, flakes, and falls out.

So, ear wax is actually a good thing! It’s there to protect your inner ears, so why would you get rid of it?

Well, you only get rid of it if there is too much ear wax. An
excess of ear wax can increase the presence of bacteria in your ears, making it more likely that you will suffer ear infections. It can also affect your hearing negatively. If there is too much ear wax, you should clean your ears!

Of course, this leads to a whole new question: What’s the best way to clean your ears? How can you do it safely so that you don’t damage your inner ear? This is a much harder question to answer…


Should you clean your ears with cotton swabs?

Cotton swabs are one of the most popular ear cleaning options. They’re incredibly cheap, available in literally every supermarket, pharmacy, and convenience store, and are fairly easy to use. Insert in ear, scrape at the ear wax, and discard. Quick and easy, right?

Did you know using cotton swabs is actually BAD for your ears? It’s all about the way your ears are designed to be self-cleaning…

Ear wax is produced in the outer third of your ear canal, and it’s the ear’s self-cleaning mechanism. The fine hairs in your ear canal move the wax outward, pushing the wax and dead skin cells out of your ear. Healthy ear canals will be able to clean themselves.

If you want to know how to safely remove ear wax, you need to understand how cotton swabs really work:

  • Insert the cotton swab into your ear
  • Scrap around for the ear wax
  • Hope it adheres to the cotton swab
  • Remove and discard

On the surface, this seems like a simple and effective cleaning method, but if you were to look inside your ear with a magnifying glass, you’d see that you’re not really removing the ear wax but you’re pushing it deeper inside.

At the beginning, it is just a small quantity of ear wax around the ear canal. But the more you push the ear wax deeper into your ear, the more wax builds up. Eventually, you’ve pushed so much wax into your ear that you have a big glob deep in the ear canal, and you can block the canal completely leading to reduced hearing.

Every time you push the wax deeper, you risk damaging your
external ear canal. There is also a chance (albeit a small one) that you will rupture your eardrum, a very fragile membrane. If you’re using cotton swabs, only clean the outer third of your ear (where the ear wax is produced).

Of course, it should go without saying that you should avoid anything similar, including:

  • The tip of a pen
  • The head of bobby pins
  • Matchsticks
  • Car keys

These things will introduce dirt and grime into your ear, increasing the risk of infection. They’ll also push the ear wax deeper into your ear!

How often should you clean your ears?

Remember that everyone’s body produces ear wax at a different rate.

If you produce a lot of ear wax (a common problem, one that is often genetic), consider cleaning your ears once a month, using hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, or ear irrigation to get rid of excessive ear wax.

If you produce normal amounts of ear wax, or if you produce less ear wax than normal, you don’t need to clean your ears. Your ears will clean themselves.

How can you know which
category you fall in? Most people with excessive ear wax will know it, as will those who produce insufficient wax. If you don’t produce too much or too little, you fall squarely in the “normal” category!

How to clean your ears at home

The following some remedies recommended by top10homeremedies


Mineral Oil

The wax in your ear contains a lot of oil, so using mineral oil to clean out your ears will help to get rid of wax without affecting your ears negatively.

The way it works is that you use warm oil – usually room temperature works best. The heat and warmth of the oil will soften and loosen the ear wax, making it easier for your ear to drain itself.

However, the fact that you’re using oil means that you won’t need to worry about dryness or irritation, as the oil will coat the sensitive skin of your ear and protect it.  

Pour a few drops of mineral oil (not baby oil, as it usually contains irritating perfumes or scents) into your ear, and cover it with a cotton ball. Lay on your side, with your covered ear facing up. This allows the oil to soften up the wax. When you turn over to treat the other ear, the softened wax will drain from your ear.

At-Home Ear Irrigation

Remember that your ear is designed to be self-cleaning, meaning the shape and structure of your ear helps to drain away the wax. You can speed the cleaning process up by using a simple at-home ear flush.

Here is a simple at-home ear irrigation to try:

Mix up a solution of equal parts white vinegar, warm tap water, and rubbing alcohol.
Pour a few drops (drops, mind you, no more than that!) into each ear.
Let the mixture sit in your ears for a few minutes to soften and loosen the wax.
Turn your head to allow the liquid to drain away, with a cotton ball to absorb the mess.
It’s quick and easy, but it gets the job done.

Again, keep in mind that the vinegar and rubbing alcohol could irritate your ear, making the problem far worse. This is another solution to try infrequently, and only when your ears need serious cleaning.


Salt Water

Salt water is the best earwax removal solution that can be used at home. It can soften the wax accumulated inside the ear, making it easy to get rid of.

  • Mix one teaspoon of salt in one-half cup of warm water until the salt dissolves completely.
  • Soak a cotton ball in the saline solution
  • Tilt the affected ear up toward the sky. Squeeze the cotton ball to put a few drops of the saline water into the ear
  • Stay in the same position for three to five minutes.
  • Next, tilt your head in the opposite direction to allow the saline water to drain out.
  • Clean the outer part of your ear with a clean cloth to remove the softened wax.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most common methods for cleaning out your ears. It helps to soften and loosen the ear wax, making it easier for you to remove (with a cotton ball) or allowing the soft, now-liquid wax to simply drain out of your ear.

Using hydrogen peroxide can make it easier for your ear to clean itself (something that naturally happens with the movements of your jaw), so it may be worth using. Mixing it with warm mineral oil can do the trick nicely!

However, one thing you need to remember about hydrogen peroxide is that it can irritate your ear. If you use it more than once every day or two, the strong solution can cause itchy, red skin, which is prone to a greater build-up of wax (which is made to protect your skin from just such a problem).

If you’re going to use hydrogen peroxide, make sure to use it no more than once a day, and only for two or three days at a time. Any more, and you could cause irritation, dryness, and an increased risk of infection.


Professional Ear Syringing

For those who want an “old school” solution, ear syringing is an effective option to consider.

Do not try this at home! Visit your local primary care physician, nurse, or otolaryngologist for this treatment.

Simply put, the treatment involves water being squirted from a syringe into your ear. The person applying the treatment will point the tip of the syringe at the edges of the ear wax, with the goal of loosening up large chunks or globs of wax.

Once the wax is loosened,it can be removed with medical tweezers. It is a highly efficient ear-cleaning method, and it can get rid of ear wax blockages.

However, there are risks with this ear cleaning method. In a very few cases (roughly 1 in every 1,000), there is minor damage to the ear canal or eardrum. The sudden pressure of water and its temperature can affect your inner ear, leading to dizziness and nausea.

For those who have a normal lot of ear wax and have been cleaning their ears daily or haven’t gotten in the habit of waiting for the wax to come out on its own, we know it’s hard to quit cleaning your ears cold turkey.

Now that you know the truth about cleaning your ears, it’s vital that you take precautions to do so wisely and safely. Use the right at-home cleaning methods, or visit your doctor for a professional ear wash!

Take care of your ears,they are everything

Joey strugis


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Very well written article…and the home remedies, definitely worth a try…


  2. Jacque says:

    Mmmhh… everything is there.. the shock, the revelation, information, and well… the nostalgia!!! I looove the feeling of cotton buds in my ears. lol.


    1. I know the feeling too well.
      Thanks jacque


  3. Jacque says:

    Mmmmhh… Everything is there… the shock, the revelation, information, well … and the nostalgia!! I love the feeling of cotton buds in my ear.. *sigh*


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