This is one of the most common questions heard by hearing healthcare specialists. The purpose of cerumen, or earwax, is to lubricate, clean, and protect the ear canal from bacteria, insects, and other foreign objects. For the most part, ears clean themselves. Cerumen typically works its way out of the ear canal naturally like a “conveyor belt” with assistance from jaw movement such as talking and chewing.
People who wear hearing aids are sometimes more susceptible to earwax buildup. Having a hearing aid in the ear all day, every day, can prevent the earwax from working its way out on its own. When earwax accumulates and blocks the ear canal, it can cause problems such as pain, itching, fullness, odor, drainage, and additional hearing loss. Excessive earwax is not rare and affects up to 12 million people in the United States alone.
If you do have excessive earwax DO NOT clean your ears with cotton swabs. Cotton swabs often push the earwax deeper into the canal which can be dangerous. The best way to treat excessive cerumen is to place a few drops of mineral oil into the ear for 1-2 minutes to help soften the earwax. Then, with your head tilted to the side, use an eyedropper to fill the ear with 3% hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for about one minute. This will “bubble” out the earwax that is present. For stubborn cerumen impactions, it may be necessary to see a professional to have it removed. Your professional can then determine the best course for long-term management.
For more information or services provided, please schedule an appointment with an ear specialist.