Dealing With Earwax Build-Up
Earwax, known as cerumen, is part of the ear’s natural process to keep dust and dirt from reaching the eardrum and reduces the risk of ear infection. Normally, dust and dirt are trapped in the earwax, which then dries up and falls out of the ear. But some people experience a build-up of earwax, which causes a blockage that reduces hearing and requires earwax removal. Hearing aid and earplug users have a higher incidence of earwax blockage than others. However, using a cotton swab to clean your ear can also contribute to earwax build-up. (It is recommended that you do not use a cotton swab to clean your ear as it may pierce the eardrum).
Symptoms of Earwax Blockage
Symptoms of earwax blockage include decreased or muffled hearing, dizziness, ear pain or ringing in the ears. Wax-softening drops and irrigation of the ear with warm water are two home remedies. For more difficult cases it may be necessary to see an ENT specialist near you for professional ear cleaning and earwax removal. If you live in or near Boise, ID please feel free contact our office and schedule an appointment to have one of our otolaryngologists remove your earwax build-up.
Common Earwax FAQs
Is It Good To Remove Earwax?
As stated above earwax serves a very important protective purpose for your ears, acting as a barrier and reducing the amount of dirt, bacteria, and other irritants that can reach your eardrums. Because of this, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery recommends just leaving earwax alone in your ears as long as it is not causing you hearing loss or other health issues.
How Can I Tell If My Ear is Blocked with Earwax?
The easiest way to tell if you have a build-up of earwax is if your hearing becomes muffled or if there is some other hearing loss accompanied by the feeling of a blockage. Someone with an earwax build-up might also experience dizziness or ear pain, although these symptoms could signify a different issue with your ears. If you are experiencing any of the following and have tried to remove the earwax yourself it could be necessary to book a consultation with an ENT specialist near you to help remove the earwax and assess to make sure that is the only issue going on with your ears.
How Often Should I Clean My Ears?
If you don’t suffer from earwax build-up then there actually isn’t much need to clean out your ears, however, if you might that you have excessive earwax that negatively impacts your ability to hear then it could be necessary to clean the wax out of your ears. If this is the case ENT doctors suggest only removing earwax from your ears every 2-4 weeks as needed. In this way you will preserve some of the protective lining and barrier the earwax provides for your eardrums.
Can You Use Cotton Swabs To Remove Earwax?
ENT specialists do NOT recommend using cotton swabs (aka Q-tips) to remove earwax from your ears for two main reasons.
- Although cotton swabs can help to remove some earwax from your ear canal it is much more likely that it will push the earwax further into your ear increasing the chance of it becoming impacted and making the blockage worse.
- It is not recommended to stick anything into your ears whether that be a cotton swab, a pencil, a finger, etc. as this increases the risk of ear infection due to the spread of bacteria in the ears.
Can You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Remove Earwax?
It is possible to use hydrogen peroxide to help with earwax removal as an at-home remedy. You can also try mineral oil or baby oil to loosen up and remove the earwax. A warm washcloth can also be an effective way to remove earwax. These would all be considered the best ways to remove earwax instead of using cotton swabs. If you do use hydrogen peroxide to remove troublesome wax from your ears it is important to be mindful not to use too much. No more than 10 drops at a time should be administered into your ear canal when using hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax.