As a researcher and author, John provides information in an easy-to-understand way that helps readers understand their condition.
Excessive earwax can be a very big problem for many of us. If not addressed properly and safely, it can lead to hearing loss as well as other conditions such as tinnitus, pain, inflammation, infection, and vertigo.
In this article, you'll discover 7 ways to remove your earwax safely at home.
But first, let's look at what earwax is and why it can cause us so many problems...
What is Earwax?
Earwax (medical name cerumen) is a natural, waxy substance that is produced by sebaceous glands in our ear canals. Its purpose is to help protect the ear canal and eardrum against things like; water, dust, dirt, debris, insects, fungi, and bacteria, which can cause infections and physical damage.
As earwax gets old and starts to dry, it is gradually propelled from inside the ear to the outside by the regular motion of the jaw muscles as we go about our daily lives. Once at the ear opening, it falls out naturally and when we wash or shower, taking trapped dirt and dead skin cells, with it.
Whilst this process is going on the wax glands in the ear canal are continually producing new wax to replace the old. Ideally, the amount of new wax being produced is the same as that being naturally expelled.
The problem occurs when too much wax is being produced and starts to build-up in the ears. This can lead to several ear problems, some of which were listed above. But things are exacerbated when the wax becomes impacted and completely plugs-up the ear canal.
Impacted ear wax is commonly caused by us, as we attempt to remove excess wax by means of our fingers, matchsticks, hairpins, twisted paper towels, and especially cotton buds / Q-tips. Not only are these compounding the wax problem they are extremely dangerous as they can damage and even puncture the ear drum.
Clinical Methods for Removing Earwax
When the doctor has concluded that a patient needs to get their earwax removed, there are several things that he or she can do.
One of the most commonly used techniques is to syringe, or irrigate, the ears. This floods the ear with a pressurized jet of lukewarm water to dislodge the wax out into a bowl held under the ear.
With irrigation, the doctor will usually have instructed the patient to add oil drops from the pharmacy for several days prior to their appointment, to help soften the wax.
Note: This method cannot be used where the ear drum is perforated.
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Another popular method is to use a curette, or a cerumen spoon, which is a miniature spoon with a long handle. The doctor uses this in conjunction with an endoscope or microscope so that he can see right inside the ear and so 'scoop' out the excess wax without damaging any tissue.
Yet another technique is to utilize a micro-suction device along with a microscope to safely suck the wax out of the ear.
However, there are things you can do at home to remove ear wax safely.
**First off, if you have an ear infection, a perforated ear drum, earache, or even if you 'think' you have a problem with your ears, then you should never use home remedies to get rid of your wax. You should always consult with your doctor beforehand for their advice.**
The home remedies listed below require that you put a solution/oil into your ear(s) to help soften the wax. Here are some tips to make the procedures effective and safe:
a) Each procedure below is best carried out either sitting down with your head tilted to the side or, better still, lying down on your side with the ear to be worked on facing upwards.
b) You will need to straighten your ear canal to ensure the solution gets right in. You do this by pulling your ear back and up. It may be better to get someone to do this for you if you can.
c) Where the solution has to be heated, it must never be warmer than body temperature as this can cause dizziness or vertigo, as can a solution that is too cold.
d) Have a cloth, towel or paper towel at hand so that you can soak up the solution as it drains out after the procedure.
e) Once the solution has drained out, you need to Irrigate the ear using a rubber bulb syringe of warm water (no more than body temperature) to help remove the softened ear wax. Put a towel over your shoulder and hold a bowl under your ear.
f) In most cases, you'll probably have to repeat the process two or three times daily for up to 10 days (depending on how bad your ear wax is) for the excess wax/wax plug to be properly removed. If your symptoms don't improve in that timescale you must visit your doctor.
g) Finally, after a procedure, you may experience a sensation that your ear is even more blocked. This is because, as the wax softens, it expands somewhat. This is natural and a necessary precursor to the elimination of the wax.
6 Ways to Get Rid of Earwax Safely and Naturally at Home
1. Salt Water
- Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of table salt in 1/2 cup of warm water in a jug or bowl.
- Put 3 or 4 drops into the ear using a dropper.
- Leave for around 5 to 10 minutes.
- Straighten up and let the saline solution drain out into a towel.
2. Baby Oil / Mineral Oil
- Add 2 spoons of oil to a glass.
- Put the glass in a saucepan of warm water and leave until the oil is warm.
- Put 3 or 4 drops into your ear using a dropper.
- After 15 minutes, straighten up and let the oil drain out into a towel.
3. Olive Oil
- Use the same procedure as for baby/mineral oil.
- Many doctors recommend the use of olive oil as a safe way to soften ear wax.
- But some are concerned that any left in the ear can become rancid since it is a vegetable oil.
- So irrigate properly after the oil has drained out.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
- Use just 3% hydrogen peroxide for this.
- Tilt your head to the side and put 3 to 4 drops into the affected ear.
- You'll hear a gurgling or fizzing sound which will last for a few minutes.
- After 5 minutes, straighten your head to allow the solution to drain out.
5. Alcohol and Vinegar
- You need 'rubbing alcohol' and 'apple cider vinegar.'
- Mix equal quantities in a small bowl.
- Tilt your head sideways and, using a dropper, put 3 or 4 drops into the ear.
- Wait 5 minutes and straighten your head up to let the solution drain out.
6. Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
- It has to be bicarbonate of soda, i.e. 'baking soda' not 'baking powder.'
- Mix 1/2 teaspoon of soda in 2 teaspoons of warm water.
- Put 3 to 4 drops in your ear.
- Leave for 5 to 10 minutes then drain out as normal.
What You Must Never Do
There's a saying that doctors use a lot, and that is, "Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear," or words to that effect. And this is so true.
Most cases of impacted earwax are caused by us trying to clean out our ears with things like our fingers, screwed up paper towels or toilet paper, Q-tips, matchsticks, hair pins, and anything else we can get our hands on.
So this final tip is to cease that practice now. It not only makes matters much worse, it's downright dangerous!
I hope you've found this article useful. Please leave a comment and let us know your problems and successes with ear wax removal.
How to Remove Earwax Safely at Home | References
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2014 JCielo
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on May 24, 2015:
This is very useful advice. It is clear and easy to follow. Voted up ++
JCielo (author) from England on August 17, 2014:
@bac2basics - Thanks so much for telling us your story. And stay away from those cotton buds... That's an order!
bac2basics on August 15, 2014:
Very good tips for me as there´s nothing I hate more than having waxed up ears and confess to using cotton buds to try to unwax them even though I know it can make matters worse.. My dad always used to use Hydrogen peroxide and I remember doing the same when I was a kid, it really crackles and pops in your ears.