A functioning ear can be cleaned with a soft cloth, but nothing should be inserted into the ear. Ideally, the ear canals should never need cleaning. However, this is not always the case. Ears should be cleaned if so much earwax has accumulated that it is causing symptoms or preventing a necessary examination of the ear by your doctor. This condition is called cerumen impaction. Most cases of earwax blockage respond to home treatments that soften the earwax.
Patients can try placing two or three drops of warm mineral oil, baby oil, glycerine or commercial ear drops in the ear. Cleansing drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (available in most pharmacies) can also help remove earwax. Cleaning is usually done with an irrigation or ear syringe, which can be done by a doctor or at home with a commercial irrigation kit. Common syringe solutions are water and saline solution, which should be warmed to body temperature to avoid dizziness.
Ear irrigation is often most effective when drops of warm water, salt solution or earwax solvent are placed in the ear canal 15 to 30 minutes before treatment. Caution is advised if you have diabetes, a hole in the eardrum (perforation), a tube in the eardrum, skin problems such as eczema in the ear canal or a weakened immune system.
If you notice signs and symptoms of earwax blockage, talk to your practitioner about seeing an ear specialist. These signs and symptoms may possibly indicate another condition, so it's good to be safe. You may think you can control earwax on your own, but there is no way to know if you have excess earwax without someone, usually your doctor, looking in your ears. Signs and symptoms such as ear pain or decreased hearing do not necessarily mean that earwax has accumulated. You may have another condition affecting your ears that needs to be treated.
Ear wax removal is most safely done by a doctor. The ear canal and eardrum are sensitive and can easily be damaged by excess earwax. Do not attempt to remove earwax yourself with a device inserted into the ear canal, especially if you have had ear surgery, have a hole (perforation) in the eardrum or suffer from ear pain or discharge. In children, the ears are usually examined as part of a medical examination. If necessary, a doctor can refer you to a specialist who can remove excess earwax from your child's ear.
Cerumen is a yellowy, wax-like substance that lines the inside of the ear canal. The ear canal is the tube that runs from the pinna to the eardrum. Earwax helps protect the ear canal from water, infection, injury and foreign objects. However, too much earwax in the ears can cause problems. This build-up is called cerumen.
Special glands in the ear produce secretions that combine with dead skin cells to form earwax. Earwax travels with the slowly growing skin cells. Over time, earwax moves from the inside of the ear canal to the entrance of the ear canal. Movements of the jaw also help the wax move down the ear canal. Some things can interfere with this normal process.
Any kind of blockage in the ear canal can cause a problem. Some people also produce too much earwax. This causes it to build up in the ear canal. Earwax does not have to completely block the ear canal. Most people only have a small build-up of earwax that does not cause any symptoms. Depressed earwax is very common. As we age, earwax becomes harder and less mobile. Older adults are more likely to have problems with excess earwax. It can lead to severe hearing loss.