By now, many of you have probably seen or heard of videos in which various people demonstrate how to use OTC digital otoscopes and ear irrigation kits to clean your ears at home. While this can be a tempting foray into self-care, we want to remind you that ear cleaning should be done by a professional! Here’s why:
Ears are generally self-cleaning. Unless you’re accumulating serious buildup, there won’t be an excess of wax to begin with. Movement of the jaw during talking and chewing helps move earwax to the outer ear, where it can be easily washed away during a shower. You won’t even notice this is happening. The recent trend of ear cleaning is just that — a trend. For most of us, it’s unnecessary.
In individuals who do experience buildup, audiologists use a special instrument called a curette to gently remove it. It is important that a professional do this for you. You’ve undoubtedly already heard that inserting objects, such as cotton swabs, into the ear canal can risk eardrum perforation, but digital otoscopes and irrigation kits should be avoided as well. They are easy to misuse and can exacerbate the problem — particularly if it’s due to a physical cause, such as a narrow ear canal or underlying medical condition.
Digital otoscopes are especially risky, as they require very precise control of the instrument and an understanding of how your movements correspond to the image on the screen. They may also provide a misleading impression of how much buildup is actually in your ear. Wax traps debris and microbes and keeps your ears healthy. Too little can lead to itchiness and infections, and too much can lead to blockages and discomfort.
The bottom line: If you’re curious or concerned about the amount of wax in your ears, don’t take matters into your own hands, and instead make an appointment with an audiologist or ENT!
For general ear cleaning at home, here are some do’s and don’ts:
- DO use a warm, soft cloth — after washing or showering — to remove normal amounts of earwax in the outer ear.
- DO gently soften the earwax with drops of warmed olive oil, almond oil, water, or a commercial solution to remove larger amounts of earwax or an earwax plug.
- DON’T use ear candles, which may cause serious injury and have not been proven effective in clinical trials.
- DON’T stick cotton swabs or other objects in the ear; they can cause injury and push wax farther into the ear canal.
By following these simple rules, you can ensure your ears remain clear and healthy.
Feeling a little plugged up? Call us today to schedule a consultation and ear cleaning.