Cleaning your ears can be an often uncomfortable experience and understandably worrying when wondering if you are removing earwax in a safe and effective way when using at-home remedies. To make matters worse, asking your doctor or healthcare provider about earwax removal is often perceived as an unpleasant or embarrassing subject, but is much more common than one might think. About 44,000 ears are syringed by health care providers to remove ear wax annually, proving that rules regarding the do’s and don’ts of ear wax removal are not widely known.
It’s important to first understand that earwax is completely healthy and an important defense mechanism for your ear’s overall health. Earwax, also known as Cerumen, shields the ear from bacteria, microorganisms, and foreign particles, protecting you from ear damage and infections. With over 22 million visits to physicians each year in the United States for ear infections, keeping earwax levels healthy is important, but how much is too much?
Understanding the symptoms of excessive earwax buildup is the second step to making sure your ear health is up to code. Impacted earwax is when earwax has built up in the ear canal to an extensive degree, showing symptoms that something isn’t quite correct. Ringing in the ears known as Tinnitus, impaired hearing, ear fullness, an unpleasant odor or discharge, and changes to hearing aid effectiveness or functionality are all signs that it’s time for a cleaning.
Seek out the advice or help from a medical professional if you notice hearing impairment, ringing, or if infections have occurred, as they may be signs of an underlying condition. It is also important to seek out medical advice before attempting any at-home remedies for earwax removal, as some medical conditions can make those remedies unsafe.
Amazingly, our ears are designed to clean themselves, as old earwax is moved outside of the ear canal by jaw movements such as chewing or talking and flakes off, but sometimes this earwax requires some outside assistance being removed. With that in mind, it’s important to only clean your ears when necessary, as overcleaning can lead to irritation, infection, or even more wax buildup in the ear canal, making wax removal counterproductive.
If you must clean your ears at home, avoid using cotton swabs or sharp objects such as pins or paper clips to clean or scratch your ears. These objects are far too small and can reach fragile parts of your ear canal, cutting or even puncturing your eardrum. Damaged or ruptured eardrums can lead to a host of complications, including hearing impairment, middle ear infections, and cholesteatoma, a formed cyst that can damage bones in your middle ear.
Do not forget to clean hearings aids properly according to your health care providers instructions. Dirty or ill-fitting hearing aids can aid in the creation of earwax by introducing outside bacteria into the ear canal in which earwax is created as a defense mechanism to protect against.