Caring For Your Ears: What you should and should not do
When was the last time you cleaned your ears? Did you do it safely? If you’re like most people, you probably have a Q-tip in hand and work your way in and around the ear totally disregarding the many delicate structures. But Q-tipping can, surprisingly, put your hearing at risk!
Is Q-tipping damaging your hearing? How to tell…
Our bodies naturally produce earwax (also known as cerumen). It generally functions as a self-cleaning agent, moving earwax and dead skin cells out of the ear with normal jaw motion. It protects, lubricates, and has antibacterial, and antifungal properties. If we didn’t have earwax, our ears would feel dry and itchy —an unpleasant experience for sure.
Earwax is made by special glands in the outer ear canal not near the eardrum. So when we have earwax buildup, blockage, or impaction the likely cause is us, poking, prodding, or pushing the earwax deeper.
Rule of thumb: It’s never ok to place anything in the ear canal, in fact, it often makes the problem worse.
Some of us are lucky and we never need to clean our ears. Others — those of us who use hearing aids, earplugs, and earbuds — are more likely to develop earwax. Earwax can build up and decrease hearing sensitivity. This is known as impaction and is often accompanied by the symptoms below:
6 symptoms of ear wax impaction
- Fullness or ringing in the ear
- Aching in the ear
- Impaired hearing
- Unpleasant odor coming from the ear
In an ideal world, your ears should never have to be cleaned. Since ideals rarely happen we need to pay attention to how our ears are functioning. If you experience the symptoms above, then it’s time to clean your ears in the right way.
4 safe and effective ways to care for your ears
Caring for your ears is something that shouldn’t be ignored. The safest and best way to get the best care is to visit your audiologist.
- Wash the external ear with a cloth. DO NOT insert anything into the ear canal. If you choose to use cotton swabs keep them outside of the ear canal.
- Drops – strategies to soften earwax often work well. A few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin can help. Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide detergent drops may help too.
- Irrigation – After softening the earwax with one of the methods above, irrigating the ear with water or saline in a syringe can be effective.
- Manual earwax removal – This is very effective and can be performed by your audiologist. It is the preferred method if your ear canal is narrow, or there is a complication like a perforated eardrum.