Earwax is a natural substance used to trap foreign debris from entering your ears. It prevents unwanted bacteria and fungi from growing, which can lead to ear infections – which is why we should embrace it.
However, like many things in life, moderation is key. Having too much earwax can do more harm than good and be responsible for hearing issues.
Temporary hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in your ears, dizziness, headaches, or even balance issues can all be due to an over buildup of wax.
We have seen many ways to remove earwax throughout our years of serving thousands of residents here in Maryland; not all of them are safe.
As hearing care professionals, we want to take this opportunity to address the five most common ways to remove earwax, both good and bad, to help you decide on your best next steps.
1. Ear Candling
There are many “instructional” videos online these days promoting this method. It seems like something our ancestors used to do, and for that reason, people think it’s safe.
The theory is that the heat from the lit beeswax cone will create a vacuum method to draw out any excess earwax. However, there is lack of evidence that this is actually effective, and many resources claim the wax that’s left at the end once the cone has burned out is just residue from the beeswax cone.
Furthermore, there have been cases which have resulted in burns when the candling session has not been correctly performed or supervised – making this a very unsafe method for removing earwax. With lack of research and scientific evidence, I do not recommend this approach.
This should be treated as a novelty and not a viable medical solution like so many other online trends.
– Can be done at home
– Lack of evidence to suggest its success
– May make the problem worse
2. Olive Oil
This is another old-school remedy but is much less dangerous than ear candling.
The notion is similar in that you place a couple of drops of olive oil in your ear, which softens the excess earwax to help remove it. By no means is this an instant cure; sometimes, the olive oil can take up to 3 days to have an effect – if it has an effect at all.
If the olive oil is used in small doses, this method has shown some success. It will only work with a minor blockage, though, and if you have any allergies to olive oil or a perforated eardrum, then do NOT use this method.
– It can help with a mild buildup.
– Most people have olive oil at home.
– It can take days to realize results.
– It may not be effective for a moderate-severe buildup.
3. Over-The-Counter Ear Drops
Instead of olive oil, some people visit their local pharmacy to purchase ear drops specifically for blocked ears. There should be a few options for you, and in most cases, these will work faster than olive oil.
This option should only be used for mild cases as well. We see many patients try these methods even though their situation has progressed past the point of these remedies working.
The issue with this and many at-home methods is that you don’t know how severe your blockage is. Determining your root cause is the best way to know which method to use and that can only be done by partnering with an audiologist.
However, the low price of ear drops can be attractive and may work for some, but seeking advice from an audiologist can professionally address your issue.
– Low cost
– Can be successful on mild cases
– Easy Access
– Hard to know which drops to get based on the severity of the blockage
– Could mask an underlying issue with your hearing
– Only works on mild cases
4. Using A Cotton Swab
This is by far the most common method, but that still doesn’t make it right. Most of us remember getting our ears cleaned by Mom or Dad with one of these. For some, it may be a fond memory, others it may be what causes nightmares; in either case, this is a terrible way to remove earwax.
We highly recommend against using cotton swabs, as they will only cause more harm than good. These swabs tend to push wax deeper into your ear rather than removing it. So even if you have a mild blockage, cotton swabs could make it severe or even progress to impacted earwax.
Too much pressure can also result in damage to your eardrum – yikes!
– Does not remove wax
– Could cause impacted earwax
– Could puncture the eardrum
5. Visit An Audiologist
If you’re experiencing signs of blocked ears, then it’s likely that you’ve passed the window where common at-home approaches will be practical for you.
At this point, you’ll require the attention of one of our specialists who can accurately identify your issue. Sometimes a blockage is something different entirely and can be a growth or fungi impeding your hearing. We can diagnose this on the spot and ensure that whatever gets prescribed will help the problem.
For wax buildup, we have the proper tools to remove it. The most common is injecting a tiny amount of water through the blockage to flush it out from the back. This is a quick and painless way to remove most blockages.
For more serious cases, we can use what’s called a curette. This is a tool that is specifically made to reach in and pull out the blockage.
Almost all blockage cases get cured with one visit right there on the spot. It’s always a pleasure seeing the look of relief on a patient’s face when they finally get to hear again.
– Accurate diagnosis
– Quick solution
– Possess all the proper tools for the job
– Can identify any underlying problems
– Get to work with a friendly, dedicated, and knowledgeable staff
– The safest and guaranteed method of removal
– Cannot be done from home
Team Up With An Audiologist In Maryland
Whether you have earwax buildup or another hearing issue, it’s wise to have a working relationship with your audiologist. This will ensure that if your hearing changes, you have someone who knows your history and can adapt based on your personal experiences.
After welcoming you with open arms, the first thing we will do is perform a comprehensive hearing assessment. This non-invasive and painless test tells us all we need to know about your hearing.
If you have any questions about removing your earwax or any other hearing issues, please call us anytime. If you want to schedule an earwax removal appointment with a professional, please click here. We are always standing by and ready to help.