Let’s face it: a clogged ear from earwax is everyone’s nightmare. It limits your ability to hear clearly and makes the ear uncomfortable.
And whenever you have a clogged ear, you may be tempted to use a cotton swab to clean it – but don’t. Research shows that using the swab or other objects to clean your ear can cause ear irritation, ear infection, and a perforated eardrum.
So, how do you clean your ears safely at home? This post will show you how to clean your ears with hydrogen peroxide and other materials.
Let’s dig in!
Why do my ears make wax?
The wax in your ears results from a substance called cerumen – produced by your body to keep your ear safe. It has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and protects your ear from things that can hurt your eardrum.
If not for the cerumen, you could have a dry and itchy ear. The wax traps things like dirt and dust, so they don’t go deep inside.
When you move your jaw, such as when you eat, you help move the old earwax out of the ear canal to the ear opening. That’s where it dries up and falls out.
You’d experience an earwax blockage because you tried to clean your ears using a foreign object and pushed the wax in deeper. In addition to the blockage, foreign objects can lead to other serious problems, including:
- Rupture of the eardrum
- Hearing loss.
Should I clean my ears?
Since ears are self-cleaning, you don’t have to clean them. They produce earwax that acts as a natural cleanser, gathering hair, dirt, and dead skin cells from the inner ear canal and migrating them outwards.
But if too much earwax builds up and begins to cause symptoms, it may be time to clean them. However, before washing the ear, you should first rule out any other condition, including the swimmer’s ear, ear infection, or Eustachian tube dysfunction.
How do I clean my ears with hydrogen peroxide?
The medical term for earwax is cerumen, and hydrogen peroxide is a potent cerumenolytic agent – a chemical that softens, dissolves, and breaks down earwax. So, how do you clean your ears using this chemical?
Before getting started, gather the following:
Then, you can proceed to clean your ears as follows:
- Add a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a medicine dropper
- Tilt your head to one side and add two to three drops of hydrogen peroxide to your ear. You can request someone to help you do this.
- Leave your head tilted for several 4-5 minutes. You may feel some fizzing in the ear as earwax dissolves.
- Slowly turn your head against the towel or soft cloth to drain the peroxide solution and excess earwax.
- Use a hand towel or soft cloth to clean your ear. Don’t forget to clean the outer ear canal.
Make sure you follow the instructions that come with the eardrops. Again, don’t use hydrogen peroxide on an injured ear as that can cause infection or pain.
Again, if you add hydrogen peroxide, don’t use a foreign object into the ear to remove the wax. Instead, leave the chemical in your ear for some minutes to dissolve and break down the excess wax.
Generally, the following tips will help avoid complications:
- Follow the instructions that come with the package
- Talk to a healthcare provider before using a new eardrop solution
- Avoid over-the-counter ear drops if the ear is injured, as this can lead to infection or ear pain
- Don’t use high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, as that can lead to inner ear infections
- Avoid this solution if you have a middle ear infection, tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes), or a perforated eardrum
- Avoid inserting foreign objects to remove wax – this includes cotton buds which can push wax further into the eardrum.
If you experience discomfort, ear pain, blocked ears, or the peroxide solution doesn’t work, visit the doctor’s office for treatment.
You may use Otic carbamide peroxide in place of hydrogen peroxide.
Alternative methods to clean your ears
While hydrogen peroxide should work just fine in cleaning your ears, several other methods may help you remove the earwax. They involve using natural substances, like salt and white vinegar, to clean your ear.
Here are other six effective ways for ear cleaning:
You may use an over-the-counter ear irrigation kit to clean the earwax. However, ensure that you follow the instructions that come with the kit.
Also, avoid the kit if you’ve had recent ear surgery or an active ear infection. You can use the kit 2-3 times a day or as directed by your care providers.
You may rely on a homemade salt water solution to soften and break down the earwax. To get started;
- Mix a tablespoon of salt in one-half cup of warm water
- Stir until the salt is completely dissolved
- Wet a clean cotton ball using the saline solution
- Tilt your head to one side and squeeze the ball so that the solution drips into your ear.
- Leave your head in this position for about 5 minutes, then tip the other side to drain the solution
- Repeat the process to the other ear if it’s affected
A bulb syringe
If the cleaning drops fail to work, you may flush the ear using a bulb syringe available at grocery or drug stores. Fill the ear syringe with warm water, place it close to your ear opening, and squeeze the bulb.
The warm water will break down and dissolve the wax. Tilt your head to the side over a bathtub or sink to allow the water (with wax) to flow out.
For safety purposes:
- Be gentle to avoid eardrum injuries
- Watch the water’s temperature
- Avoid this method if you have an injury or a surgery, as this can impair your eardrum repair.
Use a hair dryer
The heat from a hair dryer can help break down and melt the wax in your ear canal. If you have some water in the ear, the dryer can help evaporate it and unclog the ear.
Here is how you do it:
- Switch the blow dryer to its lowest setting
- Hold it about one foot away from your ear opening and move it back and forth
- Allow the warm air to blow into your ear.
You can use a few drops of mineral oil, olive oil, glycerin, or baby oil to soften ear wax before washing it off. To get started:
- Warm the oil in a small bowl. Test the temperature using your inner wrist
- Using a dropper, add a few drops of baby oil or any other oil into the affected ear
- Leave the oil in the ear for about 10 minutes before cleaning it off with a wet washcloth
Use vinegar or alcohol
Alcohol works well to evaporate water in your ear and get rid of the growth of bacteria, preventing fungal infections. If the trapped water results from an earwax buildup, white vinegar may be used to remove it.
To get started:
- Combine equal amounts of vinegar and alcohol to make eardrops
- Apply 3-4 drops of the mixture in your ear using a sterile dropper
- Rub your ear’s outside gently
- After 30 seconds, tilt your head sideways to let the earwax drain out
Again, avoid this method if you have middle ear infections, tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes), or a perforated eardrum.
Which methods should I avoid when cleaning my ears?
Not all earwax removal remedies are created equal. Professionals recommend staying away from these methods:
AVOID cotton swabs:
You shouldn’t insert cotton swabs into your ear canal. The swab will only push the earwax deeper, making it hard to clean if you do this.
Plus, you can rupture your eardrum if you push too much and too far. Scratching your ear canal can lead to inner and outer ear infections because bacteria and dirt can penetrate your skin.
Note: Avoid inserting stainless steel earwax tools, tweezers, bobby pins, or any other foreign object in your ear. These are some of the most common causes of hearing loss that can be avoided.
AVOID earwax removal candles:
Ear candling is a common practice, with people believing that it works in removing wax from the ears. However, the truth is that ear candles don’t work and can even burn you!
When to visit the doctor’s office
Too much wax can be a health issue, especially if it starts to cause symptoms or keeps your physician from doing a proper ear examination. If that is the case, you might have a medical condition called cerumen impaction, whose symptoms include:
- The pain of feeling of fullness in the ear
- Discharge, itching, or a foul smell coming from your ear
Ear health professionals advise that you seek medical attention if home remedies fail to work.
The bottom line
There you have it, lads: the safe ways to clean your ears using natural substances. Remember, earwax is necessary to protect you against infectious illnesses, so don’t always wash your ears.
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