Ew, Earwax!

Since the viral release of earwax removal videos I have seen more and more patients in my office for earwax. With those patients came an abundance of questions. In this blog I will answer some of the most common earwax questions.


What Is Earwax?

The scientific term for earwax is cerumen. It is made up of dead skin cells, hair follicles, and the discharge from two different glands. It has lubricating and anti-microbial properties.


Is Earwax Normal?

Earwax can be a normal healthy thing. Some people may never need earwax removal while others may have it done every couple of months. Signs that you may need wax removed include the following:

  • Feeling of ear fullness.

  • Pain/discomfort in the ear.

  • Ears feel plugged.

  • Difficulty hearing.

  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus).

  • Itchy ears.

  • Discharge or odor.

  • Dizziness.


What Does Normal Earwax Look Like?

Healthy earwax can range in color. It can be yellow, orange, honey-color, brown, or even grey. There is wet wax and dry wax.


How Can I Clean My Ears?

Some people may never need their ears cleaned. The ear cleans itself. Earwax is produced on the outer portion of the ear canal, not deep in the ear canal. Earwax naturally sheds out of the ear with jaw movement and the growth of skin from the inside out.

When earwax build-up becomes bothersome you can use these solutions to dissolve the wax:

  • Mineral oil.

  • Baby oil.

  • Glycerin.

  • Hydrogen peroxide or peroxide-based ear drops (such as Debrox®).

  • Saline solution.

With these solutions, you put a few drops into the affected ear and lay on the opposite side so the drops can soak into the ear. You can rinse the ear with lukewarm water following the use of drops.


NOTE: Do not put water or drops into your ear if you believe you have a hole in your eardrum or if you have PE tubes in your ears.


Finally, your healthcare provider can remove the wax manually using special instruments. The provider might use a cerumen curette, further irrigation, or forceps.


How Not To Clean The Ear

  • Q-Tips

  • Bobby Pins

  • Ear Candle

  • Home Suction Devices


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