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It can be difficult to hear when your ears are blocked, and you might look to ear cleaning as a simple remedy. With mild cases of wax buildup you can take steps to help address the problem at home, but if you clean your ears incorrectly you can cause permanent and irreversible damage. We explain what you should and shouldn't do, debunk some common myths and share the best way to clean your ears at home.

Should you clean your ears?

As ears are self-cleaning, generally speaking you shouldn’t have to clean them. That’s because earwax is a natural cleanser and gathers dirt, hair and dead skin cells from the inner ear canal and migrates it outwards, which helps to keep your ears clean. 

There are many different reasons why your ears may be feeling blocked, so before you decide to clean your ears at home, it’s important to rule out any other conditions first, such as an ear infection, swimmer’s ear or Eustachian tube dysfunction.

How to clean your ears at home

Excess earwax is not uncommon, but if your ear canal is completely blocked, you should never attempt to clear out the wax on your own as this could cause more damage. Instead, you should get in touch with a hearing professional, your GP, or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT).

While we’d always suggest seeking professional advice, in mild cases you can treat the blockage yourself - but only if you act safely. So what is the best way to clean ears at home?

  1. Using an ear irrigation kit, run warm water or saline solution into your ear canal, leaving it for a few minutes until the earwax is softened and can drain through the outer ear. The simplest way to do this is to let a little warm water trickle into your ear canal while showering.

You should only follow this method if you’re 100% certain that you have no infections or perforations in your eardrum.

  1. Using a soft cloth and some lukewarm water, gently dab and wipe the outside of your ear to remove any wax buildup. Make sure that the water temperature isn’t too hot, as you can burn your ear canal.  

  2. While earwax typically moves out of your ear naturally, you can also help old ear wax to move along your ear canal by chewing or moving your jaw. Once the earwax makes its way to the ear opening, it will often dry up and fall out.

How often should you clean your ears?

For the average person, ear canals shouldn’t need cleaning, but you can gently clean the outside of your ears daily to keep yourself feeling fresh. Just remember that cleaning your ears too frequently can cause an infection and might even increase the chances of earwax impaction. 

You should only ever clean your ears if a buildup of wax is causing you to struggle with your hearing or if you’re experiencing symptoms such as itchiness, tinnitus, dizziness or pain.

It's important to know that some people may be more susceptible to an earwax buildup than others. If you think you’d benefit from more regular cleaning appointments, get in touch with a specialist to chat through your options.

Things to avoid

When it comes to cleaning your ears at home, there are several different methods and a huge range of misconceptions. Following the wrong advice can permanently damage your hearing, so it’s important that you’re taking proper care if you do decide to clean your ears at home.

Ear candling

A popular method of DIY ear cleaning, ear candling involves placing a lit, hollow, cone-shaped candle into the ear canal and, while many people online claim how effective it is, we don’t recommend it as a treatment. This is because it can cause serious injuries and burns, and has been known to pierce the inside of the ear.

Inserting items in your ear

From cotton buds to stainless steel earwax tools, bobby pins to tweezers, when it comes to your ears, you should never put anything in them to clear away any excess wax or debris. Generally speaking, the majority of doctors will advise that you never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear as any sharp objects can perforate your eardrum and could cause serious and permanent damage to your hearing.

Possible complications and when to see your doctor

There are a number of problems and possible complications that can occur if you do decide to clean your ears at home, especially if you don’t follow the right guidance. This is because cleaning your ears wrongly can cause the earwax to be pushed further into your ear, which can cause issues such as: 

  • ear infections

  • a perforated eardrum

  • tinnitus

  • damage to the external ear canal

  • permanent hearing loss or deafness

You should visit a doctor if you have very narrow ear canals or excessively large amounts of earwax, as a specialist can safely clear blockages so your hearing won’t be affected. Make sure you don’t disregard the signs of a blockage and allow ear wax to accumulate in your ear canal, as this could lead to permanent hearing loss.

If possible, always seek help from a doctor and have a professional perform any procedure as, due to the delicate structures of your ear, improperly cleaning them can cause more harm than good.

Ear cleaning and hearing aids

If you use hearing aids, you’ve probably experienced a blockage due to your hearing aid obstructing the earwax and preventing it from leaving your ear. Similarly, earwax can damage your hearing aids and prevent them from working properly, as it gets into the vents and the receivers, so it’s important to regularly clean your device or devices to avoid any unnecessary damage. 

If you’re concerned about impacted earwax or have noticed a change in your hearing when wearing your hearing aids, get in touch with one of our trained audiologists now to book a check-up.

Wax softeners and prevention

There’s no way of preventing earwax from building up and there’s no medical reason to do so as it prevents the skin inside the ear from drying out while stopping dirt, dust and bacteria from reaching your ear canal. However, there are a few things you can do to soften the wax within your ears if you are experiencing a buildup, which can help to alleviate any pain or muffled hearing.

Wax softening drops are one option. They work by softening the wax over a period of hours to days. It’s often prescribed for two weeks for maximal effect. The drops may be enough to clear obstruction as the ear canal skin will assist in pushing out the wax over time.

 
Earol Olive Oil Spray
Odinell spray 50ml

Earol Olive Oil Spray 10ml

Odinell Spray 50ml

Use once a week to moisturise the ear canal and soften wax Designed to combat wax build-up, contains camomile to soothe and reduce irritation

Shop our full range
 

Are your ears still feeling blocked?

If you’ve followed the steps above safely but are still experiencing a blockage, book an appointment with our hearing specialists today for more information and advice.

Frequently asked questions

Should I use cotton buds in my ears?
While using cotton buds to clean your ears is common, it can actually cause more damage to your ears and, subsequently, your hearing. This is because you can end up pushing the earwax further into your ear, which can cause it to become impacted and may cause infections or other issues.
How can I clean my ears without cotton buds?
Cleaning your ears without cotton buds is simple - all you have to do is dampen a washcloth and gently use your finger to clean around the curves of your outer ear. Remember, you should never insert your finger or any foreign objects into the ear canal itself, as you can risk damaging it.
Does olive oil dissolve ear wax?
Olive oil is a traditional remedy for both removing earwax and treating ear infections, and while it doesn’t dissolve earwax, it can be used to break it up. However, it’s important to make sure you’re not putting anything in your ear if your eardrum is already damaged, or if you are prone to infections.
How does olive oil remove ear wax?
Olive oil can’t remove or dissolve ear wax, but it can be used to soften it. We’d never suggest using home remedies to get rid of wax buildup; instead, it’s always better to stick to prescribed medicines and ear drops that are made specifically for removing ear wax.
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