At least once a week I have a patient come in to tell me that their hearing has suddenly gotten worse in at least one of their ears and/or they have pain and pressure in an ear. After looking into their ear, I soon discover a deep clump of wax is completely blocking their ear canal. Most will admit that they were using a Q-tip when the decrease in hearing occurred and we then spend significant time trying to remove the wax from their ears. This can almost always be avoided by some simple cerumen (aka wax) removal tips.
There is a common misconception that Q-tips are the best method to clean your ears. Unfortunately, though it may seem that you are getting wax out of your ear, the Q-tip actually pushes most of the wax deeper into your ear canal, slowly building an accumulation of wax that eventually closes off the opening of the ear. Oftentimes, it can be painful to remove the wax since it has been pushed deep into the most sensitive portion of the ear canal, close to the ear drum. In worst case scenarios, the Q-tip can puncture the ear drum and cause permanent damage to the structures of the middle ear. If you actually look at a box of Q-tips, the packaging has a very clear warning instructing users not to insert swab into ear canal. It does not matter if it is name brand or off brand Q-tips; neither is safe for the ear. So, the moral of this story is, save the Q-tips for your arts and crafts projects!
We recommend using an over the counter wax removal kit, such as Debrox, or a method using hydrogen peroxide. An important disclaimer: if you suspect that you have a perforation (hole) in your ear drum, you should never use any type of wax removal solution in your ear, including hydrogen peroxide. Instead, consult an ear, nose and throat physician for assistance with wax removal.
Below are the steps we recommend to clean your ears with hydrogen peroxide:
- Pull your hair back and cover with a towel or use petroleum jelly to the hair strands around the ear to prevent discoloration.
- Lie on your left side with your head level and right ear parallel to the ceiling to allow the hydrogen peroxide to penetrate deeper and prevent drainage from coming out of the ear.
- Using the cap as a measuring tool and pour 1 capful of hydrogen peroxide into your right ear. You will hear fizzing/popping sounds and possibly feel an itch inside your ear. This is an indication that the hydrogen peroxide is activating and breaking down wax buildup.
- Leave hydrogen peroxide in the right ear for 10 minutes while continuing to lay on your left side. This is a great time to watch TV or scroll social media on your phone.
- After 10 minutes, sit up and tilt your head to the right side to drain the hydrogen peroxide from your ear. You may want to use a bowl or towel under your ear to absorb the drainage.
- Then place old towel under your right ear and lay on your right side. Repeat hydrogen peroxide steps 2-5 in the left ear.
Written by McKenna Bellamy, Au.D., CCC-A