Did you know earwax or cerumen is good for your ears? It traps dust and debris and maybe even a bug! It is produced by glands in your ear canal and protects the canal to stop bacteria from growing. Although we need it to keep our ear canals healthy, it can cause a problem if it causes a blockage in the ear canal. Wearing a earmold or hearing aid adds to the risk of this happening.
If a blockage occurs, it may need to be removed. This can be done at home, at our office depending on the severity of the blockage or you may be referred to a physician for removal. Keeping your ears free of cerumen will help keep your hearing aids performing properly.
At-home earwax removal
In some instances, you can use an at-home earwax removal kit. Earwax removal kits can be purchased at our office or in most drug stores.
These kits generally consist of a liquid that softens earwax and a small rubber bulb syringe. You will be given directions on how much and how often to apply the liquid to your ear canals, allowing it to sit for a short amount of time in your ears to soften up the earwax. Bubbling and fizzing sensations in your ears are normal with use. You will then use the bulb syringe to gently flush your ears with warm (not hot) water to remove the earwax. It may take several days to completely clear earwax blockages from your ear. There are contraindications to using these kits in some people and with some ear conditions. Before attempting at-home earwax removal, it is advised to speak with your audiologist or doctor to be sure it is safe for you.
Earwax removal methods to avoid
People commonly use cotton swabs to try and remove earwax or dislodge a blockage. However, this can sometimes cause more problems as cotton swabs may push the blockage further down into the ear canal, risking even more damage to the ear. Cotton swabs themselves can also be accidentally inserted too far into the ear canal and can compact wax further or puncture your eardrum. Cotton swabs are a bad idea for removing earwax and should only be used on the outer portions of your ear. You should never insert cotton swabs or any small object into your ear canal.
In office removal of earwax
If the blockage is more significant, it may need to be removed by the audiologist. Typically one of two methods is used to remove earwax: irrigation or curettage.
Irrigation is the most common method your audiologist will use to remove blockages. Unlike at-home earwax removal kits, your hearing professional may use stronger earwax removal medications in conjunction with irrigation. Carbamide peroxide is typically the main ingredient in these medications.
The less common method is curettage, which involves the use of a curette. A curette is a long, curved tool that may also be used with suction to remove cerumen from the ear canal.
If you experience pain or discomfort as a result of earwax or suspect you have a blockage, it's important that you see your audiologist as soon as possible to address the issue. Removing earwax doesn't have to be painful and should bring you relief. Always remember, never put nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear!