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DIY Tips for Cleaning Your Ears

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If you’re still using a cotton swab to clean your ears, now is the time to stop! There are many recent news stories outlining the dangers of inserting cotton swabs into the ear canal, among them irritation, infection, even a perforated eardrum. So how do you clean your ears safely at home? Here are some do-it-yourself cleaning tips.

Warm water and a washcloth

For most people, this simple method removes all excess earwax. Our ears are actually self-cleaning. Earwax migrates from the eardrum to the outer ear, taking dirt and debris with it. When you try to stick something inside the ear canal, you’re actually pushing earwax back toward your eardrum, possibly creating a problem. That’s why it’s best to let nature do its thing and allow your earwax to move out to the outer ear. Take a wet washcloth and wipe the wax from your outer ear. If you need a little more “help” to move the earwax, you can tip your head to one side and squeeze warm water from the washcloth into your ear canal. Let it sit for a while, then tilt your head in the opposite direction. Do this for both ears.

Baby oil or mineral oil

These types of oils can soften earwax and allow it to move out of the ear canal. Take an ear dropper and put three to five drops of oil in one ear. If you need to, use a cotton ball to keep the oil in the ear. Allow it to soak for about ten minutes or so and then tilt your ear to allow the oil to drain out.

Hydrogen peroxide and water

Another way to loosen earwax is to use the same method as above, but instead of baby oil use a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water. It’s important to dilute the hydrogen peroxide because at full strength it can irritate your ear. Be sure to use the hydrogen peroxide that is labeled three percent, which is the type in the brown bottle sold at the drug store.

Saline solution

You can make your own saltwater solution to try to soften earwax. Mix a teaspoon of salt in one-half cup of warm water. Make sure to dissolve the salt completely before you put the mixture in your ear. Wet a cotton ball with the saline solution, tilt your head to one side, and squeeze the ball so that the solution drips into your ear. Keep your head tilted for about five minutes, then tip to the other side to drain. Do the same thing in your other ear.

These do-it-yourself ear-cleaning tips should work to remove excess earwax. However, if you have a feeling of fullness in your ear, irritation, a possible ear infection, or other problem, it’s time to see an audiologist for assistance. Your audiologist has special equipment to take care of serious problems, such as an earwax impaction.


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