This old adage, although physically impossible, is valuable advice. It is not in your best interest to regularly clean your ears. Earwax is a form of protection, your ear canals natural defense against foreign bodies. Wax captures bacteria and dead skin cells and forces them to migrate outward, away from the ear drum. Attempting to remove wax by inserting a Q-tip or tool will push wax back down the ear canal or could even cause ear drum perforation. If the wax is forced back regularly, it will eventually accumulate near the ear drum and give rise to discomfort, pain or temporary hearing loss. FYI – Regular cleaning of the ears can INCREASE wax production and/or cause chronic irritation or infection of the ear canal leading to constant itching or pain in the ear. If you think I can’t tell if you used a Q-tip prior to seeing me, you are wrong. The ear canal walls are very sensitive and are quite often still red and irritated upon inspection with an otoscope.
Now it seems a bit hypocritical for a hearing instrument specialist to hand out advice advising you NOT to put anything in your ear canal on the one hand and yet dispense hearing aids and hearing protection with the other. However, sometimes regularly inserting a foreign body in your ear canal is your best option. Individuals who spend hours in the presence of loud noise are better off dealing with the odd wax plug than to subject their sensitive cochleas to noise. Individuals with hearing loss are better served by treating the loss than not (see previous blog Hearing Loss and Dementia).
So you think you have a wax plug. What do you do? Best to soften the wax with a few drops of oil in the affected ear for 4 or 5 days before consulting your family doctor or your lovely neighbourhood hearing instrument specialist to have it removed. What kind of oil you ask? Olive oil will do the job nicely however if you want to purchase a product I have seen some good results with Cerumol but heads up, it contains peanut oil.
So bottom line. If you want to remove ear wax from the ear canal opening or dry your ears after a shower, have at it but use a washcloth NOT a Q-tip. Ear wax that is visible to the naked eye is fair game, the rest is still doing its job.
Call New Hope Hearing if you have any questions about you ear canal health.Leave a reply