Earwax, known medically as cerumen, is a common problem with many, not just those experiencing hearing loss. While we may have thought it was best to clean our ears with Q-Tips (some even use bobby pins or other tipped materials), these objects cause more harm than good, as they typically push the earwax further into the ear canal.
If you’re wondering when it’s time to clean your ears, don’t worry – you’ll know. Symptoms will arise, causing cerumen impaction. This can lead to earaches (ears may fill full of liquid or seem plugged), partial hearing loss, tinnitus, itching/odors/discharge, and coughing. While your doctor certainly knows how to remove blockage, there are treatments you can try at home. This includes placing several drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or ear wax removal drops into the ear. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide may also help. Irrigation kits can also be used, involving a syringe of either water or saline that has been warmed to your body temperature. These drops are most effective when used 15-30 minutes before treatment. Do not use if you have diabetes, a perforated eardrum, a tube in your eardrum, eczema or other skin condition located near the ear canal, or a poor immune system.
Refrain from using Q-Tips, as these can cause serious problems. While they may seem to be helping, they’re actually contributing to the problem. Q-Tips can push the wax deeper into the ear canal, causing a major blockage that can lead to hearing loss. Also, stay away from ear candles! With ear candles, users are told to place 10-15 inch long hollow candles into their ear canals, lighting the exposed end. This can lead to burns and can injure the ear as well as cause a hole to form in the membrane that divides the ear canal and the middle ear.
If these methods do not work, and if especially you are in pain or are experiencing major hearing loss, call your doctor today. They can prescribe special eardrops that will soften the buildup or they may remove the wax for you. If you suspect a hole in your eardrum, do not try to ease the issue on your own with drug store solutions. Eardrops and perforated eardrums can lead to pain and in some cases infection. Even washing your ears out with water can cause problems.
While there’s no way to prevent earwax, as it is a natural process of the body, you can stay ahead of potential blockage by refraining to use Q-Tips and monitoring your ears/hearing. If blockages are a common issue for you, set up regular cleaning/check-up appointments with your doctor.