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4 FAQs About How to Clean Your Ears

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Woman Touching Ear

Perhaps you’ve done it for years – cleaned your ears every day. While it may feel good, it’s not necessary and in fact could lead to problems. You may have seen recent articles about how cotton swabs should not be used to clean your ear canals. What can you do? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how to clean your ears.

1. How often should I clean my ears?

If daily isn’t the answer, what is? Actually, you only need to wipe around your outer ear a couple of times a week. Your ears perform the rest of the duties themselves through a unique self-cleaning system. Earwax collects dirt and bacteria and naturally moves it out of the ear canal to the outer ear as you move your jaw.

2. What’s the best way to clean my ears?

Use a washcloth or a tissue to wipe away any wax that has migrated to the outer ear. Anything soft and non-irritating will do. You may use a cotton swab on your outer ear but it never should be inserted in the ear canal. Cotton swabs can push earwax back toward the eardrum and lead to a blockage. The cotton may irritate your ear canal and dry it out, or worse yet, fall off the swab can become stuck in your ear.

3. What if it feels like I have to get the earwax out?

Sometimes you have itchy ears or may feel as if the wax is building up and could cause an issue. Some people naturally produce more earwax than others. If you wear hearing aids or earplugs, you may also experience a build-up of wax. In these cases, you can clean inside your ear canal with a couple of drops of mineral oil, baby oil or glycerin. Tilt your head to one side, put in the drops, let it sit for several minutes, then tilt your head in the opposite direction to drain out the oil (and with it excess earwax). You also can do a similar procedure in the shower using warm water and allowing it to slowly fill your ear canal and then draining it. Earwax is water-soluble so any of these liquids will work.

4. What if my ears hurt from an earwax impaction?

If you experience pain, odor or an ear infection, you should see your audiologist. They may recommend prescription eardrops or an at-home irrigation kit, or may remove an earwax impaction at the office with a curette or irrigation.

The answers to these questions about how to clean your ears may seem a bit simple, but that’s because ear cleaning really is a simple task! As with many things, you can over-do cleaning your ears and cause irritation and even infection. Healthy ears are able to care for themselves with just a little help every now and then.