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The Do's and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Ears

The Do's and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Ears

Our ears do a lot of work for us. When we are talking to someone on the phone, chatting with our friends, watching television, and listening to music, we use our ears. Hence, it’s crucial to keep them in good shape. That includes cleaning your ears with cotton buds or an ear cleaning kit right?

Well, not exactly. Cleaning our ears might be more complicated than we expect. But before we get to that, we need to first talk about why we get earwax in the first place.

Why do ears produce earwax?

Your ears naturally produce earwax. It might seem pretty gross, but having earwax is actually a good thing. Your ears are self-cleaning organs, and they produce earwax to help cleanse and push out any dirt and debris that might get stuck in your ears.

Additionally, earwax has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and it helps keep your ears in good shape. If you have too little earwax, your ears would feel itchy and uncomfortable, so having earwax is actually a good thing.

However, too much earwax can also be a problem. Having too much earwax can clog up your ears and make it difficult for you to hear. Too much earwax can also make your ears more prone to infection.

Do you need to clean your ears?

For the most part, you do not really need to clean your ears. Earwax falls out of our ear on its own, and you do not need to use cotton buds or an ear cleaning kit in order to clean your ears. In fact, cleaning your ears can sometimes do more harm than good!

This is especially true when you insert cotton buds inside your ears. What happens when you use cotton buds is that instead of getting the earwax out, you are actually pushing the earwax along with any dirt and debris into your ear. This means that you can clog your ear even more, or potentially damage your eardrums if you accidentally push too hard.

That is why most doctors recommend to just leave your ears alone and let nature take its course. But there are some situations where you really need to get your ears cleaned, specifically when there is too much earwax, or the earwax has been impacted and it is already affecting your hearing.

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When should you clean your ears?

People who have had ear surgery, ear infections, and those who wear hearing aids or earplugs often are more prone to having a buildup of earwax in their ears. In cases like these, there is already too much earwax which poses a problem.

Do you need to use an ear cleaning kit?

People with impacted earwax might be tempted to use an ear cleaning kit. These are kits that contain different sized picks that you can use to clean your ears. While some people might find ear cleaning kits effective, most doctors do not recommend using these to clean your ears.

Putting any sharp implements inside your ears can be very dangerous, and you risk accidentally poking the inside of your ear or damaging your eardrums. The rule of thumb is, if you can put it inside your ear, you should not be using it to clean your ears.

Another thing to avoid is ear candling. Ear candling has not been proven to actually clean a person’s ears, and can in fact cause more harm than good.

So, what options do you have when it comes to removing impacted earwax?

How should you clean your ears?

One way to go about it would be to use over-the-counter ear drops. Ear drops are specifically designed to help loosen any earwax stuck in your ear safely, and without harming your ears.

To use these ear drops, just follow these steps:

  • Lie down sideways, with the ear you want to clean facing up.
  • Put the recommended amount of ear drops in your ear and wait for a few minutes for the liquid to soak and soften any buildup in your ear.
  • Before sitting up, get a tissue and be ready to wipe off your ear. The liquid along with the softened earwax should come out without any problems.

If ear drops do not work, flushing the ears with warm water should be able to do the trick. Here are the steps to do so:

  • Use warm but not hot water when flushing your ears.
  • Using a bulb syringe, gently flush the liquid into your ears to avoid harming your eardrums.
  • The warm water should flush out the impacted earwax and you should be able to hear better.
  • If you have a hole in your eardrum, or have recently had eardrum surgery, it would be best to avoid this method of cleaning your ears.

If the above methods do not work, then it might be time to seek professional help.

How do doctors clean your ears?

Doctors use specialized tools to help clean the impacted earwax in your ears. Some doctors use a microscope to get a better look inside your ear, as well as vacuums to safely clean the earwax without causing damage to your ears.

Some use specialized ear picks to help safely clean your ears. Only doctors should be the ones to put these things inside your ears as they have been specially trained to use these tools to prevent damage to your ears.

The next time you are tempted to clean out your ears, remember that your ears are self-cleaning organs and that the only cleaning you need to do would be to clean your outer ear. Otherwise, it would be best to leave the ear cleaning to your doctor to prevent any damage.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Dos-and-donts-of-cleaning-your-ears, https://www.audika.com.au/hearing-news-blog/advice-and-tips/dos-and-donts-of-cleaning-your-ears, Accessed June 23 2020

Dos-and-donts-of-cleaning-your-ears, https://www.entnet.org/sites/default/files/uploads/PracticeManagement/Resources/_files/cobranded-cerumen_dos-donts.pdf, Accessed June 23 2020

3 reasons to leave earwax alone – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/3-reasons-to-leave-earwax-alone-2017051711718, Accessed June 23 2020

Got an ear full? Here’s some advice for ear wax removal. – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/got-an-ear-full-heres-some-advice-for-ear-wax-removal, Accessed June 23 2020

Ear Wax Removal 101: The Best (and Safest) Ways to Clear Clogged Ears – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/ear-wax-removal-101-the-best-and-safest-ways-to-clear-clogged-ears/, Accessed June 23 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 26
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.