Removing Wax When Cleaning Your Ears

Ear wax is normal and healthy and is thought to be one way the ear protects itself from harmful bacteria and dirt. Everyone makes ear wax, although some people make more than others. Sweat glands inside the outer ear canal produce it. The wax "oils" ear canal tissues and protects the eardrum.

Pediatrician checking ear of boy in examination room
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Ear Cleaning to Remove the Wax

The healthy ear cleans itself. Tiny hairs lining the ear canal remove the wax slowly, but too much ear wax can create a blockage that may lead to temporary hearing loss.

When you clean your ear, you're removing wax that has traveled far from its point of origin within the ear. But there's no need to put a finger, swab, or anything else into the ear canal. First of all, it can hurt! More importantly, it may push the wax in deeper.

So how can you remove the wax? At home, you can use an over-the-counter (OTC) wax softener to clean your ears. But don't do this if you're experiencing any hearing loss or ear pain, dizziness, have a history of a hole in your ear drum, or discharge. Instead, contact your healthcare provider to have your ears examined.

Problems Associated With Deep Ear Wax

Deep-seated ear wax can cause pain, a feeling of pressure or fullness, or noise in the ear (tinnitus). It can also lead to hearing loss. See a healthcare provider, nurse, or audiologist to determine if your ear wax is deep. If it's very deep, a special microscope can be used to remove it.

Impacted Ear Wax

Blocked or impacted ear wax may be due to overzealous ear cleaning, but it can happen even if you don't stick anything in your ear, particularly as you age. Older ears don't clean themselves as effectively as younger ones, and age-related health problems or hearing aids might make it harder for older people's ears to remove ear wax.

For example, if you're 70 years old and use hearing aids, you might need a healthcare provider to help remove wax from your ears every year or two.

Safe Ear Cleaning for Deep Wax Removal

The practitioner should always view the area to be cleaned using a strong light. Some healthcare providers use pressurized water to remove deep wax. Other options include using a wire loop or vacuuming the ear with light suction to remove the wax gently.

What Else Should You Know?

Unless you're certain that your ear wax isn't deep, always start by checking with your healthcare provider. Describe your ear wax symptoms, and ask about the method of ear cleaning that's best for you. He or she will tell you if you can try a home-removal method or should come in for an examination.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jamie Berke
 Jamie Berke is a deafness and hard of hearing expert.