Cerumen Removal: A Step by Step Guide

If you’re like most people, you probably clean out your ears with Q-Tips whenever you get out of the shower. You…really need to stop doing that. Not only does this have the potential to cause serious and permanent damage to your ear canal, sticking any kind of object into your ear can push the earwax deeper, preventing it from being cleared out naturally.

In other words, by cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, you’re paradoxically making them dirtier.

Of course, improper ear cleaning isn’t the only thing that can cause excessive buildup of earwax, known also as cerumen impaction. It’s only one of many different factors. These include:

  • Failure to properly clean hearing aids, earbuds, or headphones.
  • Failure to rinse your ears after swimming.
  • Certain genetic factors, including narrow ear canals and eczema.
  • Ear infections.
  • Certain diseases, such as lupus.

Generally, it’s not difficult to tell when you’re suffering from cerumen impaction. Your ears might itch so badly you want to set them ablaze, or they might feel uncomfortably ‘full.’ Cerumen impaction is also commonly accompanied by tinnitus and/or hearing impairment, and may be accompanied by fluid leaking from the ear canal.

Sounds unpleasant, right?

As for how you can deal with cerumen impaction, the best advice I can give you is to visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Attempting to remove the earwax on your own is, generally speaking, a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, visiting the doctor isn’t always going to be possible, especially with things as they are now.

As such, here’s the safest process I can offer up where at-home earwax removal is concerned. Note that if there are any signs of infection such as blood or pus, do not attempt this. Go to the doctor or the hospital.

  1. First, invest in an earwax removal solution. You can find several different brands on Amazon. It may also be advisable to invest in an earwax removal kit, including a spray bottle, basin, and rubber syringe.
  2. Follow the instructions on the earwax solution. Generally, this involves using one or more drops a day for a week or two, in order to soften the earwax.
  3. Once the earwax has been sufficiently softened, rinse out the ear with either a room-temperature saline solution or warm water.
  4. Wait a few moments, then drain the ear. If you have a rubber syringe, use it.
  5. Gently dry your outer ear with a soft, clean cloth.

Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this is not a process you should attempt if you’re suffering from severe impaction or show signs of damage. I understand that going out right now may be risky, but the alternative is suffering permanent damage to your ears. It ultimately boils down to how much you’re willing to risk in order to preserve your hearing health.

About the Author: Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.

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