by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Q. What should a person do about earwax? What's that you say? Huh?? :)
A. Most people don't need to clean out their ears. The wax is there for protection, and the little hairs in your ears will usually bring it out naturally.
However, some people produce a little too much wax or impede the natural process by packing it in with earplugs or earbuds. They may begin to have muffled hearing.
If earwax is giving you trouble, here are some suggestions on how to clean it out:
- DON'T use cotton swabs, such as Q-tips. They pack the wax in and may damage your ears. Never use anything to clean your ears smaller than a finger in a washcloth.
- DON'T use ear candles for removal. Again, you can damage your ears. The debris you see after using them is waste from the procedure, not contents from your ear.
- DO purchase an earwax-removal kit. Put a few drops of the solution in your ears before bedtime for several nights. The wax will become soft and may come out on its own during the night. If it doesn't, try irrigating your ears with the bulb syringe that comes with the kit (like the one pictured to the right). Use lukewarm water so you won't get dizzy.
- If that works, DO use the removal solution in your ears at night every week or so to keep the wax soft and coming out. You won't need the syringe again, or will only need it rarely.
If that doesn't work, most any primary-care provider can irrigate the earwax out for you.
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JAMES HUBBARD, M.D., M.P.H., is the publisher of MyFamilyDoctorMag.com, the website written by health-care professionals for the general public. He's been a family doctor for over 25 years.
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Last updated and/or approved: December 2011. Originally published January 2009. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.