Tips on removing ear wax
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The body naturally makes ear wax to coat, protect, and lubricate the lining of the ear canal. How do you get rid of extra ear wax? I'm Dr. Alan Greene with a few tips. Speaking of tips, one of the most common things people do is take a cotton swab and try to get the ear wax out that way. That works pretty well, but there are a couple of serious problems with it. One is if you happen to stumble you could actually hurt oneself with a ruptured eardrum with it. But the bigger problem is that whenever you put something in the ear like that and rub around, you're moving the hair cells inside the ear and stimulating the body to make more wax. So it actually perpetuates the problem. It gets out what's there, but it makes you have more very soon thereafter.
Now the way the body is normally setup, the wax that's there is gradually moved out by the hair cells and it becomes and gets into this part of the ear. So, the best way in general to deal with your wax is stick nothing inside the ear canal. Just take a clean washcloth and clean the outer part of the ear that you can just easily reach with your finger.
Every now and then though ear wax will build up where you do need to do something extra. That can happen if you've been sick or if the humidity changes or something irritating gets in there. Some people are genetically predisposed to it. But in that case, the best solution is usually to get ear wax drops. You get them over the counter both in brands and generic form. And the way they work is they melt the ear wax and make it easier to come out. So, you tilt your head to the side you put 5 or 10 drops in there. And you want to leave the drops in for a couple of minutes so you either need to keep your head tilted or you can put a cotton ball in and go about your work and then come back later to get rid of the wax and the drops.
The way you get rid of it - you take a bulb syringe and you fill it with warm water by squeezing the air out first, dipping it in water, picking it up, and then just gently flush with the warm water. That'll help the drops come out, help some of that melted wax to come out. And then to get rid of that extra water in there, you tilt your head to the side, the other side down, and gently move your ear around in a circle like this and you should get the extra water drops out as well. You can do that a couple times a day for about 4 days and usually that'll take care of even a pretty serious ear wax build-up.
- Last reviewed on 9/18/2011
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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