Most of the time, your ears do a stellar job of self-cleaning, but some people find it necessary to occasionally use safe, at-home earwax removal methods that include irrigation with water, saline, mineral oil or over-the-counter drops. It’s important to exercise caution when attempting to remove earwax because it can push wax and debris further into the ears. There’s also the risk of hurting your eardrums in the process. In fact, there are several instances where you should definitely not try to remove earwax without the help of a professional.
1. You are experiencing ear pain.
Even if you’re fairly certain the pain is caused by compacted earwax, it’s not a good idea to attempt to remove it yourself. At that point, it’s better to place your ears in the care of an audiologist who will use tools and techniques to safely remove the wax without harming your hearing.
2. Your ears are draining and it’s not just earwax.
Discolored drainage could indicate an ear infection, while clear, blood-tinged drainage could indicate a perforated eardrum. You could just be experiencing trauma from a loud noise or pressure change, but there’s no way to know for sure until your ears are examined by a professional. Meanwhile, leave your ears alone and leave the cleaning to your audiologist.
3. You have a punctured eardrum.
If you suspect your eardrum may be punctured, avoid trying to remove earwax since you could make the damage worse and, ultimately, risk your ability to hear.
4. You’ve had surgery.
After surgery, your ears need to rest. You may have also received instructions not to get them wet. Trying to remove earwax too soon after surgery slows the healing process and can cause serious damage, so always consult your audiologist with questions about when it’s safe to resume cleaning your ears.
5. You (or your child) have tubes inserted.
Tubes are used to treat chronic ear infections, which are especially common in children. Because they create air flow between the ear canal and middle ear, they encourage drainage and prevent further fluid buildup. This also means the ears should be protected from water and other liquids, so earwax removal is a bad idea.
For the most part, your ears don’t require much maintenance. If you experience constant or recurring problems with earwax and your ears, schedule an appointment with an audiologist to have them examined.