Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What is the Best Way to Clean Your Ears?

This woman wonders what is the best way to clean your ears?

In addition to being kind of gooey, earwax also known as cerumen is essential for healthy hearing. Produced by glands within the ear canal, cerumen is part of the ear's natural self-cleaning process. It protects the inner ear, moisturizes the ear canal and has anti-biotic properties, meaning germs don't get through. But too much earwax can cause buildup and hearing issues. So what is the best way to safely keep your ears clean?

Normal earwax is fine if left alone. There are few times when a person with normal earwax should attempt to clean it from their ears. In fact, many of the products on the market today can cause more damage than good and should be avoided. Cotton swabs, ear candling, and irrigators are all examples of devices people use to clean the wax that can cause the wax to become more imbedded.

Excess earwax can block ears and create hearing problems for people, especially someone wearing hearing aids. Hearing aid wearers have more issues with cerumen, because the wax may have a difficult time leaving the ear canal naturally. There are a few key ways to tell if your earwax is within normal or excessive ranges.

Signs of Excessive Earwax

"Approximately 12 million people a year in the U.S. seek medical care for impacted or excessive cerumen [earwax]," Richard Rosenfeld, MD, MPH, Chair of the AAO-HNSF Guideline Development Task Force.

According to Dr. Jeanne Ward of Premium Hearing Solutions, "Excessive earwax must be removed." Earwax can cause temporary hearing loss and 80% of the ear canal's diameter can be blocked. Below are a few telltale signs for when to see a professional to have earwax removed:

• ear pain
• sound distortion (your own voice sounds different)
• a feeling of stuffiness or fullness in the ear canal
• persistent itching
• an unpleasant odor
• ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
• discharge (an oozing substance that keeps appearing)
• persistent cough
• hearing loss

Hearing can be compromised by earwax, and the best practice for safe removal is to see a hearing health professional. People who wear hearing aids should be examined regularly for impaction that can cause feedback, limit hearing and cause damage to hearing aids. But there are a few safe earwax products that people can use at home.

Safe Earwax Removal Agents:
• Debrox
• Murine Ear Drops
• Audiologist's Choice

According to Dr. Ward, "If the earwax is packed hard and deep, over-the-counter earwax products, like Debrox, Murine Ear Drops, or Audiologist's Choice can be used to soften it prior to professional removal." If after using any of these products, you continue to experience symptoms of excessive earwax, you need to make an appointment with a qualified hearing health professional. Below is a list of the ways a qualified professional will safely remove earwax.

Removal techniques by a hearing health professional:
• Irrigation - removing the impacted ear wax with water under mild pressure
• Manual removal with special instruments like an ear curette
• Suction, carefully controlled and monitored by the hearing professional

In order to keep good hearing health care, you need to remember cleaning your ears is not a do-it-yourself project like brushing your teeth. Your ears will take care of themselves under normal circumstances - no maintenance needed, but if you do need help to remove earwax, the best practices is to see a hearing health professional. The tools available to a hearing health professional, their skills, and abilities allow for the best removal. In most cases, having your ears cleaned by a hearing professional is a benefit covered under insurance.

Expert After Care Advice

Once a doctor is seen and any serious issues resolved, a regular maintenance and checkup program can be started. Dr. Ward of Clawson, Michigan suggests, "Once your ears are clean, you can try 6-10 drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear once a month to soften and dissolve earwax. It is best to use an eyedropper, lay down on your side, drop in the peroxide and wait 5-10 minutes. Then stick a cotton ball in your ear and flip over to do the other side. Please be sure to have the approval of your physician or audiologist prior to starting this management program. Some ears may have medical issues where it is not recommended."

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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