The Basics of Ear Wax Management
Hi, I’m Dr. Egan from Now Hear This, and today I’m going to talk to you about the basics of managing earwax. Everyone builds earwax in their ears. This is entirely common and normal and the amount of earwax, as well as the texture and color, can change as we continue to live. It can also change based on a variety of different things: your genetic makeup, the amount of oil produced, and the number of skin cells that get mixed in. Earwax is okay and very healthy for us to produce, but sometimes people produce too much earwax. Earwax should work its way out of our ears naturally. Think of our ear canal as a conveyor belt. The wax is produced, and it slowly works its way out of the ear. The ear canal pushes it out in a normal and healthy process. Unfortunately, sometimes that earwax builds up and forms a plug. This can be due to the type of ear wax- if it’s a harder earwax that tends to adhere to the skin if your ear canal is very narrow or curvy the wax sometimes gets stuck around a corner, and it has trouble moving out. And so, sometimes there are reasons that we need to manage that earwax.
The first thing I want to tell you about managing your earwax is not to use a Q-tip. We aren’t able to see in our ear canal, so when we use a Q-tip we are guessing and hoping that we are going to remove the wax, but the majority of the time we are actually pushing the wax farther into the ear canal itself. In addition, there are a lot of risks to using a Q-tip. I see many bloody ears in our clinic as a result of people who tried to use a Q-tip at home and actually poked their ear canal with the Q-tip. That could be another risk. We don’t want any blood in the ear canal, we don’t want any risk of infection. Do not use Q-tips. They’re not effective use and they can be very risky.
What I do recommend for people who are told they build an excessive amount of earwax is for them to use wax softening drops. All you have to do is put 5 or 10 drops in your ear and lay on your side for about 10 minutes so it can really soak in. I have a lot of our patients do this routinely because it keeps their earwax soft so that it can work its way out of our ear canal on its own. A lot of earwax slowly builds and if we keep it soft and moist, it never forms that plug. So, that is definitely my recommendation for at-home management of earwax is to use wax-softening drops
For those folks who really like to use a Q-tip and are used to putting something in their ear, I recommend taking a tissue and twisting it up, because if I use this to rub around in the ear canal, there is no way to puncture or harm anything. So, those are the two at-home strategies I recommend.
For folks who still continue to build up wax, and those things aren’t enough, I definitely recommend professional removal of the earwax. I do not recommend buying those at-home video otoscopes or at-home video wax removal kits because they can be risky or hazardous. If you’re sticking a metal tool in your ear and you can’t see what’s going on, or you’re not trained in wax management, it’s similar to the same risk at using a Q-tip. And many healthcare providers are capable of removing wax. A lot of folks go to primary care or an ENT, and depending on the state and license of the audiologist, they can remove wax too.
So that’s the big takeaway! Avoid those Q-tips, use wax softening drops, and for the vast majority of people, your earwax will be well managed. If you continue to run into issues, contact a professional who can help you further, and avoid any risky, dangerous activities that could harm your ear canal or ear drum. I hope you learned something today, feel free to like and subscribe to our videos, and of course, have a wonderful rest of your day!