Cerumen, or ear wax is a yellowish substance that functions to lubricate, clean, and protect the external ear canal from dusty debris, bacteria, and fungi.
Normally, the external ear canal is able to get rid of ear wax through the process of outward migration, which occurs as a result of jaw movement (for example during chewing).
However, some people produce an abnormally high amount of earwax or have a mechanism that prevents ear wax from properly migrating outward.
Accumulation of this substance in the external ear canal can lead to partial or complete blockage of the external ear canal. Among the most commonly reported symptoms are: the feeling of blocked ears, subjective hearing loss, tinnitus, and itching.
When you suspect you have a significant buildup of earwax associated with one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, what are the recommended ways to clean your ears and what treatment should you avoid?
However, we must not forget that ear wax protects the ear, therefore, its presence is necessary. The treatments mentioned are intended to eliminate or produce the symptoms related to an excessive accumulation of earwax.
For people with normal ear wax production, daily cleaning of the external air opening with wash clothes is sufficient to eliminate excess ear wax released by the external ear canal.
Things To Remember When Doing An Ear Wax Removal
This treatment should be avoided if you have a perforated eardrum or regularly suffer from external otitis.
➡️ Mineral oil or unscented olive oil
This is a home treatment that you can administer yourself. Simply put two to three drops of oil in the external ear canal regularly to soften the earwax. It is important to clean the ear afterward by washing clothes.
➡️ Eardrops (ceruminolytic products)
This treatment can be used alone to soften ear wax and thus help it migrate out of the external canal. Ceruminolytic products can also be used before an irrigation or curettage treatment to maximize their effectiveness.
➡️ Ear irrigation
This involves the use of a jet of water to clean the external ear canal. A syringe filled with warm water or an electric irrigator can be used to dislodge excess ear wax.
Doctors as well as trained nurses can undertake this procedure. This treatment should be avoided if you have a perforated eardrum, water can reach the middle ear which would then become an environment conducive to infection.
People who have had ear operations should not use this treatment.
➡️ Manual cleaning by curettage or suction
Manual cleaning by cottage consists of manually extracting ear wax using a medical instrument, such as a curette. This treatment is preferred if you have a perforated eardrum or have already undergone ear surgery.
➡️ Suction cleaning
It is done using a suction bulb. The ENT doctor generally proceeds under a microscope.
Things To Avoid When Doing An Ear Wax Removal
➡️ Cotton swabs
The instructions on the commercial packaging of cotton swabs specify to clean only the external surface of the ear, without penetrating the external ear canal, otherwise injury may occur.
Using the cotton swabs only pushes the ear wax inside and therefore increases the chances of blocking the external ear canal.
➡️ Ear canning (ear candles)
These candles, made from beeswax, are inserted into the external ear canal and then lit. However, scientific studies have failed to prove their effectiveness.
In addition, these candles can be very dangerous; they pose a risk of burns and can cause a fire. Health specialist warns the public that it is illegal to sell these candles for therapeutic purposes.
➡️ Any other objects
A hair clip or any other object should never be inserted into the external ear canal. Just like cotton swabs, this object pushes air wax inward and increases the risk of forming a blockage. Additionally, significant injury can occur if the eardrum is affected.
The most suitable medical method in some cases, is a doctor may recommend medical methods to remove ear wax blockage.
➡️ Ear irrigation
Ear irrigation, also called ear washing, is a method used to remove ear wax blockages. As healthcare professionals we use a special solution to gently rinse the ear wax, removing softened ear wax.
➡️ Suitable products
There are effective products for removing ear wax blockages or for regular, daily ear health. A cerumen is a gentle ear hygiene solution based on surfactant for adults and children aged 6 months and over.
Thanks to these two surfactants, this device is used to reduce the surface tension between ear wax and the skin and thus fast related the dissolution of ear wax. Helps soften ear wax and facilitate detachment from the ear canal.
➡️ Manual extraction by a doctor
If the ear wax plug is stuck or if home methods do not work, it is best to consult a health professional. A doctor or ENT specialist will be able to safely remove the plug using specialized equipment.
In a more complex case, a doctor can manually extract the ear wax plug using medical tools. This is done under medical supervision to avoid any damage.
Is it safe to remove the ear wax plug at home?
Yes, it is generally safe to remove an earwax plug at home, but it is important to do so carefully to avoid pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear.
Avoid using sharp or Stiff objects like cotton swabs, as they can damage the ear canal. Instead, opt for gentle, natural methods to safely remove ear wax.
An earwax blockage is an excessive buildup of earwax, a waxy substance produced naturally by the ceruminous glands in the ear.
It can form when earwax is not drained properly which can cause a blockage in the ear canal. Ear wax blockages can cause hearing loss, dizziness, and even pain. It is therefore crucial to know how to remove ear wax blockage to avoid these consequences.
In some cases, the formation of a plug is due to an ear canal that is too narrow, or too long and angled. The strong presence of hair at the entrance to the canal also hinders the evacuation of ear wax.
Finally, improper use of cotton swabs, regular wearing of hearing aids or ear plugs, humidity, and swimming can also promote the appearance of ear wax blockages.
- Schwartz SR, Magit AE, Rosenfeld RM, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction) (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28045591/). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Jan;156(1_suppl):S1-S29. Accessed 1/13/2023.
- Horton GA, Simpson MTW, Beyea MM, Beyea JA. Cerumen management: an updated clinical review and evidence-based approach for primary care physicians (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2150132720904181). J Prim Care Community Health. 2020;11:215013272090418. Accessed 1/13/2023.