We’ve all heard the horror stories of permanent damage suffered at the hands of someone simply trying to clean out their ears with a cotton swab. This begs the question, is there a safe way to clean your ears?
Does Your Ear Need to be Cleaned?
For most, the ears are practically self-cleaning. This is especially true in regard to earwax.
Earwax, known as cerumen by the medical community, is produced by glands that line your outer ear. The job of this earwax is to prevent dust, dirt and debris from entering the ear. It helps to keep the ear moist, which prevents your ear from becoming dry and itchy, and also contains chemicals that fight off infections.
As your ear produces new earwax, older earwax is pushed out. Through the process of chewing, talking and just generally living your life, loose earwax will naturally work its way out of your ear.
The Importance of a Good Shower
According to Dr. Erich Voigt, a clinical associate professor and chief of general/sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health, the best place to clean your ears is in the shower. “When you’re washing your hair, you can clean [your ears] with a washcloth,” he says.
While you can clean the outer ear folds, earlobe and back of the ear, you should not attempt to clean out the outer ear canal. Sticking anything in your ear in an attempt to clean out the earwax will do just the opposite—push earwax farther into the ear. This can cause an earwax blockage or an accidental tear or puncture of the eardrum. Known as a perforated eardrum, this injury can lead to hearing loss.
After getting out of the shower, make sure you wipe down our ears. “Just dry [them] with your towel,” Dr. Voigt says. “I tell people to put their finger in their towel and kind of just mark the opening of the ear. This way you’ll remove any unsightly wax from debris and any material that would be visible, but you’re not going into the canal, which would disrupt the natural cleaning process.”
How Your Doctor Cleans Your Ears
If you do develop an earwax blockage, your ear, nose and throat doctor can help you find relief. After examining your ear with a lighted instrument called an otoscope, your ENT doctor will remove the impacted earwax. This can be done with a curette tool or a combination of earwax softener and suction.
The whole process takes only a few minutes.
To learn more about managing your earwax or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact Eastern Oklahoma ENT today.