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How Often Should I Clean My Ears?

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Woman with Hand to Ear

One of the most commonly asked questions is how often you should engage in ear cleaning. The other question that immediately follows is what are the best methods. It’s a difficult question to answer, as it’s important to clean the outside structure of the ears regularly while leaving enough earwax inside to keep out dust and debris. Believe it or not, earwax does have a function and if you constantly clean it out all the time, you’re leaving your ear canal without protection.

Ideally, you shouldn’t be cleaning your ears at all, but it’s not always an ideal world and some people are more likely to have a buildup of earwax than others. You can have an exam with an audiologist to figure out whether you have an impaction, but if you know you have good hygiene and the outer ear is clean you could pretty much stay away from them.

The problem lies if you don’t check your ears enough. The earwax that you do need to keep your ears protected can sometimes end up impacting and result in earaches, hearing loss and – quite frequently – tinnitus. Tinnitus is the ringing in the ears that you get that simply irritates you and can have an effect on your quality of life. How often you clean your ears? Well, ideally never. The ears are self-cleaning and the only time you should ever go near the inside of your ear is if they’re itching, blocked or causing you pain, and even then, you need to see an audiologist.

Why do we have earwax?

Everyone has earwax. Babies have earwax from birth and adults deal with it throughout their entire lives. It’s produced by the body and it’s there to help lubricate, lean and protect your ears. The medical term for earwax is cerumen. It’s a sticky substance that gets produced in the outer part of the ear canal. Most people don’t know that earwax is made up of predominantly fat, and it can help you to fight off infections – that is, when it isn’t impacted and causes its own infection!

When earwax has done its job, that’s when it migrates out to the outer ear, where you can clean it out and get rid of the excess. Some people produce way more wax than others, which means that they have to clear their outer ears more than others do. In some cases, there accumulation of wax inside the ear can cause the following issues:

  • Ear pain
  • Plugged/blocked sensation in the ear
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear odor
  • Coughing and itching
  • Discharge

Getting it right

An audiologist will be able to tell you whether you have an issue with earwax with a simple examination, but you don’t need to see an audiologist to know if you are having repeated impactions and infections – you’re going to feel that! It’s important to keep your outer ears clean for general hygiene purposes, but most people don’t even realize that you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs in the ear or anything that requires insertion into the ear canal. At Sonus Alexandria, we can work with you to provide options to alleviate tinnitus and other conditions caused by a buildup of wax in the ears.

You don’t have to have a serious impaction to clean the ears, but you’ll know about it if the wax starts to build up inside so if your problem isn’t serious but you do feel like there’s just too much wax in the ear, you need to do it right. So, here’s how you clean them out safely:

  • Use a simple washcloth to clean the structure of the ear on the outside and wipe the ear through to clean any excess.
  • You could also try a few drops of baby oil to soften the wax before wiping.
  • You must never use hydrogen peroxide as it can make the problem worse.
  • Avoid ear candles, as these can cause injury and burns – cleaning wax shouldn’t render you deaf.

Ultimately, you need to consider your hygiene to know how often you should be checking your ears for impacted wax. If you are feeling the symptoms of an impaction, then a conversation with your audiologist as well as your primary care provider can help you to alleviate the symptoms. Always follow the rules when it comes to your ears. Don’t put things in them and make sure that you book an appointment with Sonus Alexandria if you are concerned about your ear health. Call today at (703) 823-3336.