The Correct Way to Remove Impacted Earwax That Worked for Me

Updated on November 29, 2017
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Glenn Stok is skilled at studying what doctors don't always share. His articles are based on his own experience and his systematic research.

I’m going to show you how I succeeded in removing impacted earwax. You’ll be able to follow every step of my personal account of my experience in this article.

One warning before we start: if you have a perforated eardrum, this method should not be used. If you have an earache or low-grade fever, or if you experience vertigo (dizziness), you may have a more serious problem and you should see your doctor for proper treatment.

The purpose of this article is to share my experience in an effort to help others with similar issues. It's always important to see your doctor first to rule out more serious conditions.

How I Got Impacted Earwax

I always thought I was doing the right thing carefully drying my ears with cotton swabs after taking a shower. I was always careful to avoid going in too far with the swabs. I knew not to touch the eardrum. I’ve done this all my adult life.

Now, in my mid-60s, I suddenly had a problem with impacted earwax in my left ear. Evidently, I was pushing the wax in deeper and deeper over time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, using cotton swabs or other items to clean one’s ears may remove some wax, but it actually pushes more wax into the ear canal even deeper.1

The Purpose of Earwax

The chemical name for earwax is cerumen. It has a definite purpose. It helps protect us by keeping foreign bodies and outside contaminants, such as dust and insects, from entering the ear canal.

Dust and pollen will get caught in the wax and not make it deep into the ear canal where it could damage the eardrum. The wax can even hinder the ability for bugs to crawl in; think of it as flypaper.

The Body’s Natural Method of Wax Removal

I realize now that the best thing is to let the body handle this naturally.

What I learned while researching this matter, is that moving your jaw while talking, and chewing while eating, will help push the wax outward. In addition, the ear canal has tiny hairs that vibrate to move the wax outward. It’s a natural function of the body to move the wax out, like on a slow motion conveyor belt.2

My Ear With Impacted Wax Clearly Visible

Source

A Visit to My Doctor

I suddenly lost quite a bit of hearing in my left ear one day. It started right after I took a shower, so I already imagined it was an earwax problem and I didn’t panic. Nevertheless, I had my doctor check it out just to be sure I was right.

My doctor looked in my ear with an otoscope (ear scope) and was able to rule out any serious conditions. This is important to have confirmed before attempting to resolve the problem on your own.

He told me to use an over-the-counter earwax softener and if that doesn’t work in a week, then I should see an ENT doctor.

In severe cases, a specialist has the proper instruments to manually remove impacted earwax. I was able to resolve the problem with the earwax softener at home, but it took a lot of patience and repeated softening and irrigation sessions, as I’ll explain.

How Earwax Softening and Irrigation Works to Remove Impacted Earwax

What’s Needed

The process is to first soften the wax that’s impacted. The safest method is with an earwax softener. This is supplied in a dropper bottle that can be used to place the required amount of fluid in the canal (usually 5 to 10 drops).

Some people say you can use hydrogen peroxide to soften the wax, but it’s safer to use the proper chemical approved for this. With a little research, I found the Debrox Earwax Removal Kit. This includes a syringe that’s required to irrigate the canal after using the softener.

Most earwax softeners are 6.5% Carbamide Peroxide, so you can actually use any product that contains this as the active ingredient. Buying a lesser-known brand can save you some money and they work just as well. I later discovered a similar kit made by E-R-O that sold for less at Walmart.

Earwax Removal Kit with Bulb Syringe and Softener Drops
Earwax Removal Kit with Bulb Syringe and Softener Drops | Source

How to Use the Earwax Softener With My Improved Method

The instructions say to tilt your head sideways and place 5 to 10 drops of softener into the ear with the dropper. Then after several minutes, flush with warm water using the bulb syringe. Even the Mayo Clinic website says to do it that way.2

I found this didn’t work for me, so I made several improvements to this process.

First of all, it takes almost an hour. Yes, I lay in bed with my ear up for well over 45 minutes after putting in ten drops. I found the more, the better—as long as you don’t overflow the canal and make a mess. I could feel it fizzing all that time, so I knew it was still working even after half an hour. That fizzing means that the ingredient is activating and breaking down wax.

I had a book with me to spend the time reading. Another time I used my iPad, so I could watch a video to pass the time. The important thing is to keep your ear facing up all that time while you feel the fizzing action. It’s actually a good feeling, knowing that it’s working.

Now, this is important: I pulled my earlobe in all directions a few times during the session as shown below. I could tell that I was helping the softener work its way around and loosen more wax.

Help the softener work its way deeper by pulling on the earlobe.
Help the softener work its way deeper by pulling on the earlobe. | Source

How to Irrigate After Softening the Wax (My Improved Method)

After each session of letting the wax softener fizzle in my ear for an hour, I tilted my head the other way, using a tissue to catch the softener fluid and some wax as it drained out.

More wax can be removed by irrigating with warm water. I used the supplied rubber bulb syringe to flush the ear. I filled a teacup with warm water and sucked the water into the syringe as shown below.

The water should only be body temperature. Water that is too warm or too cold can cause dizziness or loss of balance.

I also had to improve on the method described in the instructions on the box.

They tell you to gently flush the ear with warm water after letting the softener drain out, but they don’t explain how to do this the right way. At first, I made the mistake of using the syringe to fill my ear with warm water, then turning my ear down to let the water drain out. That was wrong! No one tells you this.

Source

The best way to use the syringe is to pump the water into the ear while facing the ear down over the sink. Squeezing the bulb syringe quickly forces the water up. I discovered that more wax comes out when flushing upward and letting it immediately drain out. It’s a little messy, but more wax comes out that way.

I did that several times until I used up all the warm water in the teacup. Then I dried my ear with a towel, but never again will I use a cotton stick.

Every day for four days I repeated the session of fizzing and irrigating. Each day I felt some improvement.

Fourth Day Success

On the fourth day I was feeling much better and realized I could hear through my left ear again, but not very well. I continued with another session of using the softener and flushing my ear.

After 45 minutes of lying in bed with my ear up to the ceiling, I turned to let it drain into a tissue and then went over the bathroom sink to irrigate my ear a few times with warm water—with my ear facing down and shooting upwards with the syringe bulb, as usual.

Suddenly a huge dark bit of wax fell into the sink when the water drained. I was amazed by the looks of it. “That thing was in my ear?” I thought to myself.

I was hearing completely normal after that, but I decided to do one more session the next day anyway—just to be sure.

I spent the next few days doing the same procedure with my other ear, even though I didn’t have any problems there. I just figured if I had created the problem by using the cotton swabs, I probably might have an issue developing with my right ear too. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to perform a healthy irrigation occasionally.

© 2017 Glenn Stok

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    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 2 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Peg Cole - Thanks for sharing that experience your mother had. It can definitely be done in one day at a clinic if done right, as they did with your mom.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

      I found this to be really helpful both in the tips you shared and in the correct process for getting rid of the earwax with the warm water. My mother had impacted ear wax and I took her to an Ear Clinic where they spent over an hour spraying a peroxide solution into her ear. Eventually an enormous hunk of softened wax came out which had seriously affected her hearing.

    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      FlourishAnyway - Putting kidding aside, you just made me realize something. I’m a little OCD when it comes to personal hygiene, so maybe that’s why I overdid it with cleaning my ears and impacting the earwax. Now I’m forcing myself to not dry out my ears anymore after a shower.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

      I’ve always had a thing about clean (unimpacted) ears and white teeth. I’m going to go flush my ears and brush my teeth right now just in case. It’s a slight OCD thing.

    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Nell Rose - The warm water loosened the wax. Various doctors all have their own strategies, but like you said, it look a lot of water.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 weeks ago from England

      I have had that problem quite a few times. I used to do the wax loosen stuff, then go to the Docs where the nurse would pour copious amounts of warm water into the ear, and it would start popping on the way home! lol! glad you got yours sorted.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 weeks ago from Norfolk

      I figured that:)

    • Glenn Stok profile image
      Author

      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Sally Gulbrandsen - Just to be clear, it only works to help with hearing loss if it's due to impacted earwax, as it was in my case.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 weeks ago from Norfolk

      Good job! I figure this might well be something I will be coming back to in the future. Suffering from hearing loss is not something any of us look forward to. Knowing that there is an effective way to reduce the symptoms is definitely something worth knowing about. Thank you.