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Cleaning Ears at Home

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Ear wax can be annoying or even make it hard to hear. Otolaryngologists tell people not to put objects in their ears to remove wax. That includes cotton swabs which may actually push wax further into the ear. A study in the UK shows that a simple home remedy bay be safe and effective. 237 people who went to a clinic for ear wax removal were studied for two years. Half had their ears flushed out by a nurse while the other half were given ear drops to soften wax along with a bulb syringe to irrigate the ear. Nearly three-quarters of those treated by the nurse came back to the clinic to have their ears cleaned out again. Fewer than two-thirds of those given the bulb syringe needed professional assistance. The investigators concluded that ear irrigation with a bulb syringe seems relative safe and effective for home use.

[Annals of Family Medicine, March/April 2011]

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16 Comments

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A chiropractor has told me that getting treatment from him will help my Tinnitus. Is that possible?

I presume that some of those subjects were originally seen because of itch due to seborrheic dermatitis affecting the ear canal; were they excluded? And were they informed on how to eliminate vertigo due to improper position of the semicircular canals and to control the water temperature?comunque I agree with not using the cotton swab! thanks
JUT

I have had this problem for 5 years now and it is affecting my hearing... thank you for the info and send me any further information and comments.

I use a cotton swab and dip it in Hydrogen Peroxide and swab out my ears. I turn my head so the Hydrogen Peroxide goes down in my ears. I do this a couple of times a day. Does this soften the wax and keep my ear canal clean?

I was one of those people who used q-tips on a daily basis to clean my ears (not that they needed it) which became the normal for me as it relieved an "itch" in my ears that started soon after. After some months of this practice, I noticed my hearing became impaired and my ear canals were very painful.

I was miserable! Soon after, I noticed a black substance on the end of the q-tip which startled me. I went to my Otolaryngologist who diagnosed a fungal infection in both ears. He said the fungus overgrowth was caused by daily removal of the earwax which keeps the fungus at normal levels. Apparently, the normal acid/alkaline balance was disturbed inside my ear canal from daily cleaning with q-tips.

I was treated several times for the problem with an uncomfortable, "clean-out" procedure and an anti-fungal powder and sternly reminded why one should NEVER use q-tips in the ears!

I would like to know what type & brand of ear syringe you recommend.

I've been using a syringe effectively for years. After you flush the wax out, it can be important to put a few drops of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol in one ear, then use a finger behind the ear on the ear canal to move the alcohol around, then drain, then repeat on the other ear, in order to avoid swimmer's ear.

I occasionally use a Q-tip two or three times per week. Once a week while showering I turn the water to very low pressure and hold my head nearly horizontal. I then take a two or three minute ear rinse. It feels great and there is no water-in-the-ear problem nor wax build up.

I see that the advice given and comments make no mention of the fact that people vary widely in the hardness of ear wax. A simple genetic trait regulates this to a large extent."Hard-wax" people certainly should never use cotton swabs to clean ears--this will increase pressure on the eardrum, and will not remove a plug of wax anyway. "Soft-wax" people can easily clean their ears by carefully inserting swabs and turning them slowly. However, there is no reason why this needs to be done everyday.

Ear wax has a function, and the normal body takes care of itself--most of the time. I'm a "soft-wax" person, have excellent hearing, have never had an ear infection, and have been cleaning my ears as indicated above by myself for some 60 years.

My nurse practicioner recommended Earigate, a Murine prodcut, after a wax buildup. After using it for several days, I noticed the music on the radio was a lot clearer, and I was hearing tones, I'd missed for awhile. I do it about once a month. It's best done, lying on your side to get the full effect of the fluid going into the ear canal.

What does one use to 'soften' the earwax?

I did not read any clear way to remove ear wax. It just mentioned ear drops and an ear syringe. I need step by step instructions on removing ear wax safely.
Your information is not complete or clear. What good is it?????

I have, for all my adult life, used Q-Tips to clean my ears approximately once a week without any problem whatsoever. The most earwax I ever get is just a darkish smudge on the Q-Tip. The wax never gets a chance to build up! You simply swirl the Q-Tip against the edges of the inner ear canal.... you'd NEVER just plunge the thing right in towards your eardrum!! The thought of putting cones, candles, liquids, etc., into my ears is just nauseating and terrifying. How messy, dangerous, expensive and uncomfortable!!

The only person I wouldn't recommend use Q-Tips for ear-cleaning would be someone with spastic motor control, tremors, etc. People break their ankles stepping off curbs, too...

Putting two or three of drops of Sweet Oil, which can be purchased at the drugstore OTC, in each ear is sufficient to soften the wax and it will come out, unless it is impacted. There is no need to use Q-tips, hair pins or other tools. If there is really a problem, after using the Sweet Oil to soften the wax, a syringe that is used for babies can be used. It is not necessary to do this every day or every week. If you have that big of a problem you need to see an otolaryngologist.

Do you need to warm the ear drops before you put them in? How long do you leave them in? 2 minutes, 20 minutes? Do you need to flush with water? Sorry for all the questions, but I am deaf in 1 ear and I am afraid to put anything in my good ear.

I always use the drops to clean out the wax, and then irrigate with the syringe.
This method works best for me :)

Thanks for sharing.

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