Good ear health is one of those things that many of us overlook. We take our hearing for granted, and don’t think about, or realize that there are very specific things we should do to maintain and improve our hearing and ear health.
One of those things, so commonly overlooked, is cleaning our ears properly. Most of us have grown up with the idea of quickly swabbing out our ears after a shower, and moving on with your existence. True ear care, however, is much more involved than that, and may very well be quite the opposite of what we think.
Because we value your hearing, and our own, we’ve compiled a list of healthy, safe ideas for how to clean your ears safely. These ways should help you avoid cause damage to your ears, while improving your hearing if the ear canal has become clogged or waterlogged.
What is Earwax, and Why Do We Have It?
While most people may view earwax as a nuisance, it is important to remember that everything in your body has a purpose. Even earwax makes a difference in our bodies’ healthy processes. Earwax helps to provide lubrication, and protection for our ears, and provides some antibacterial properties.
Earwax, also called cerumen, is a type of self-cleaning agent that your body produces naturally. As the earwax forms it goes about collecting debris, dirt, bacteria, and other nasty things you don’t want sitting around inside your ear.
As you chew and move your jaw around the earwax naturally gets worked out of your ear. But sometimes, we get blockages from earwax, and we need to help our ears out by cleaning away the excess earwax.
When You Need to Clean Your Ears
Many people never need to know how to clean your ear. But for the rest of us, earwax builds up to levels to where hearing is affected. If you use ear plugs, or hearing aids, it’s more likely that you will develop issues with ear wax. When you lose hearing due to excess earwax, you have what is known as an impacted ear.
Symptoms of an impacted ear can include:
- A feeling of fullness in your ear
- A persistent ringing in your ear that makes hearing difficult
- Aching in the ear
- Feeling dizzy or disoriented
- Persistent coughing
- General impaired hearing
- A strange odor emitting from the ear
The Best Methods for Cleaning Your Ears
The safest and best way to take care of this type of problem is to visit your doctor. While at the appointment, the doctor can use special instruments to help clear up the blockage.
However, if you are unable to make an appointment, or in a place where seeing a doctor is impossible, there are methods you can use to help bring yourself relief.
These methods are typically referred to as “home remedies” for impacted or clogged ears, and can safely be done at home, at hotel room, or wherever you’re stuck and unable to reach a doctor you trust.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best methods we could find for how to clean your ears:
Method 1 – Water and Hydrogen Peroxide
One of the most popular, and easiest methods for cleaning out your ears involves creating a mixture of water, and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.
After making the solution, tilt your head and gently pour the mixture into your ear. You should hear a popping and fizzing sound that indicates that the mixture is working.
Let the solution sit in your ear for five minutes.
After the time passes, drain the solution by turning your head to the side.
Next you will need to rinse our your ear by gently squirting lukewarm water into the ear canal and then tilt your head over a towel or sink to drain. Aim the water into the side of your ear, rather than directly down the canal. Think of your outer ear as a rim for shooting at.
You can repeat this process up to two times a day for up to four days to help soften earwax for removal.
Method 2 – Hot Water
If you’re still having issues with impacted ears after using the hydrogen peroxide/water mix, you can move onto this next method.
Take a rubber bulb syringe filled with water that’s body temperature – approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius – and use it to flush out your ear canal.
While putting the water in, make sure to gently pull on your earlobe away from your head, to help open up the ear canal.
This process should be done over a tub, sink, or another container because it can become a very messy operation with water and chunks of earwax coming out.
Method 3 – Rubbing Alcohol and White Vinegar
Another method for how to clean your ears involves making a mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. White vinegar is great at dissolving earwax, and helps to prevent bacteria from building up inside the ear. And the rubbing alcohol will dry up any liquid that may be leftover in the ear itself after cleaning.
- Place an equal mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a container.
- Next, place a cotton ball into the solution and allow it to soak.
- Tilt your head so that the problematic ear is pointed toward the ceiling. Squeeze the cotton ball until a few drops fall into your ear.
- Wait for approximately three to five minutes, and then tilt your head toward the floor and allow the solution and earwax to drain out into a waiting container or rag.
- Take a clean cotton ball and use it to remove any of the residual gunk that may remain in the outer ear.
Method 4 – Olive Oil
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Olive oil acts as an all-natural, ready-to-use wax-softening agent. Using a natural oil eliminates any concern about irritation or drying within your ear. And, as you use olive oil in your ear it will coat the sensitive parts of your ear and leave it protected.
- Pour a small amount of lukewarm olive oil into an applicator for use in your ear, such as an eyedropper.
- Place several drops of olive oil directly into your ear
- Take a clean cotton ball and use it to cover the opening of your ear.
- Find a comfortable spot to lay down on your side with the covered ear facing toward the ceiling for around ten minutes.
- After ten minutes, remove the cotton ball and tilt your head towards the floor and allow the oil and earwax to drain into a container or rag.
- Use a fresh cotton ball or clean cloth to clean the opening of your ear and remove any wax in your outer ear.
You may substitute almond and mineral oil for the olive oil instead, if you have those more readily available.
Method 5 – Glycerin
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If the other methods haven’t worked, you can always try using glycerin. Besides being great at getting rid of earwax by softening it, glycerin is easy to remove from the ear.
- Use a dropper filled with glycerin.
- Tilt your head so that the affected ear is towards the ceiling.
- Use the dropper filled with glycerin to put several drops in your ear.
- Place a clean cotton ball inside the affected ear.
- Allow the glycerin to sit for five minutes.
- Remove the cotton ball, and tilt your head in the opposite direction to allow the liquid and wax to drain out.
- Use a soft cloth or cotton ball to clean out any of the remaining softened wax on your outer ear.
What Not to Do When Cleaning Your Ears
As a warning, make sure to never use cotton swabs, bobby pins, or napkins when cleaning your ears.
While these are some of the common practices, they is not safe for your ears. If you use these small objects you may end up shoving the earwax deeper into your ear, and cause your ear to become impacted or worse.
You can also cause other blockages by the ends breaking off, or cotton swabs ripping and shredding inside your ear. You could also scratch the inside of your ear with sharp points or edges.
Before cleaning your ear, it’s also important to make sure that you’re not suffering from a perforated eardrum or an ear infection. It is highly dangerous to try and clean your ears on your own with either of those conditions. Doing so can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
Symptoms in combination that may indicate you have an ear infection can include:
- Strong and persistent ear pain or aching
- Vomiting of diarrhea
- A high fever
- Green or yellow mucus draining from your ear
Another thing to keep in mind, is that is that you should never attempt to clean your ears on your own if you have had a tube inserted into your eardrum.
Safely Cleaning Your Ears at Home
While it’s best to seek a physician’s help when cleaning your ears is necessary, you can safely do so at home. You can use any of the above methods mentioned, and keep in mind the various precautions that have been mentioned.
It’s also best to note that these methods can be done alone, but it’s helpful to have someone assist in the process when possible.