The production of ear wax (cerumen) is a necessary and natural process that helps protect your ear canal from infection and water. Attempting to remove ear wax by inserting a cotton tipped applicator (Q-tip, cotton bud, cotton swab) into the ear is both dangerous and counterproductive. Not only does attempting to clean the ear with Q-tips put you at risk of serious damage to the eardrum that could lead to hearing loss, but it also leads to impacted ear wax. The Q-tip may get some wax out but it pushes the rest farther into the ear canal often causing pain, irritation, or infection.
Most people don’t need to clean wax from their ears at all. Movement of the jaw while eating and talking moves excess wax out of the ear canal and you simply need to wipe the excess away with a washcloth at bath time. We only recommend cleaning the ear canal if excess wax causes impaired hearing or discomfort.
Since there are many conditions like middle ear infections (otitis media,) swimmers’ ear (otitis externa,) a ruptured eardrum, or a foreign body, that can cause decreased hearing, ear pain or discomfort, we recommend making an appointment when you’re not certain of the cause.
Some individuals tend to have thick ear wax that gets impacted (stuck) in the ear canal easily, however, even excessive earwax does not need to be removed unless it is causing symptoms or the eardrum needs to be visualized by your doctor.
For these individuals, we either clean the ears in the office using a specialized spray nozzle and a cerumen removal instrument or we recommend home treatment with 5 drops of Debrox drops to be instilled into the affected ear twice daily for 3 to 7 days. If the drops alone are not enough to clear the wax impaction then we occasionally recommend using the bulb syringe that comes with the Debrox kit to gently rinse the ear as in this video.
Note that the bulb syringe is not inserted into the ear as this could cause excessive force on the eardrum.
If home treatment fails, please call us for an appointment (919) 460-0993