While growing up, it’s likely you heard the saying, “Don’t forget to wash behind your ears.” But what about around and inside your ears? There are specific recommendations for keeping your ears clean. Here’s what you need to know about the best way to clean your ears.
Let nature do its thing
Your ears are actually self-cleaning. When cerumen, known as earwax, forms in the ear canal, it migrates toward your outer ear. This happens when you move your jaw while talking or chewing. So contrary to what some might think, earwax is a good thing! It helps to keep dirt, dust and bacteria from moving toward the eardrum. Daily ear cleaning usually is not necessary and actually can remove too much earwax, leading to dry, itchy ears. Cleaning your ears once or twice a week is sufficient.
Ear cleaning tips
The easiest way to clean your ears is with a washcloth. Wipe your outer ear in the shower or bath to remove any excess earwax. If you feel some wax build-up, irrigate your ears in the shower by allowing some water to gently flow in and then tilt your head to drain out the water. The excess wax will flow with the water because earwax is water soluble.
Mineral oil or baby oil can be used to soften any impacted wax. Use just a drop or two in the ear, allow it to soak and drain out slowly. Commercial eardrops and at-home irrigation kits also work for some, but you should contact your hearing health provider to ensure you are using the right ones.
Most importantly, never use cotton swabs or other small objects inside your ear! The swab can push earwax back toward the eardrum and create a blockage, and the cotton may irritate the ear canal, drying it out and possibly leading to infection.
Some people produce more earwax than others. This excess wax can get hard and block the ear canal, especially if it gets pushed back inside. The blockage can cause a temporary hearing loss. If you have ringing in your ears, a feeling of fullness, an earache or sounds are muffled, you may have a wax build-up. Because these are also symptoms of more serious problems, a visit to your hearing care provider is necessary.
People who wear hearing aids may have more earwax because the units can block wax from falling out of the ear. It’s important to keep your ears and your hearing aids clean and free from earwax.
For the most part, the best way to clean your ears is to allow nature to run its course. Only use cotton swabs to clean the outer part of your ear and never insert them into the ear canal. A simple task just a few minutes a week is all that is needed to keep your ears clean and healthy.