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Know your Wax

Cerumen or earwax, is a gray, orange, or yellowish waxy substance secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals. It protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection against bacteria, fungi, insects, and water. Typically, old earwax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear canal to the ear opening where, most of the time, it dries, flakes, and falls out.

When do you clean it?

Normally, the ear canals should never have to be cleaned. However, the ears should be cleaned when enough earwax accumulates to cause symptoms:

  • Earache, fullness in the ear, or a sensation the ear is plugged
  • Partial hearing loss, which may be progressive
  • Tinnitus, ringing, or noises in the ear
  • Itching, odor, or discharge
  • Coughing

What is not recommended?

Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum. It is only formed in the outer one-third of the ear canal. Wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. This is often caused by attempts to clean the ear with cotton swabs. Most cleaning attempts merely push the wax deeper into the ear canal, causing a blockage. So, when a patient has wax blockage against the eardrum, it is often because he has been probing the ear with such things as cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins, or twisted napkin corners. These objects only push the wax in deeper.

Ear candles are not a safe option of wax removal as they may result in serious injury.

When should you go to a doctor?

If your ear has a tube, then we recommend that you see a doctor who may use a suction or special miniature instruments, and a microscope to magnify the ear canal.

If there is a possibility of a perforation in the eardrum, consult a physician prior to trying any over-the-counter remedies. Putting eardrops or other products in the ear with the presence of an eardrum perforation may cause pain or an infection. Certainly, washing water through such a hole could start an infection.

Natural way of cleaning at home:

Firstly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that digging every last bit of wax out of your ear constantly is an indicator of good personal hygiene.

If you don’t have the above problem, to clean the ears, wash the external ear with a cloth, but do not insert anything into the ear canal.

If the wax is impacted, one can try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops in the ear. Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (available in most pharmacies) may also aid in the removal of wax.

Method of Usage

1. Salt Water

Salt water is one of the best home remedies for excessive ear wax. It works by softening the wax inside the ear and flushing it out to the surface:

  • Take a teaspoon of salt and drop it in a half cup of body temperature warm water. Wait until the salt dissolves entirely.
  • Take a soft, cotton ball and dip it in the solution.
  • Tilt your head so that your affected ear is facing skywards. Place the cotton ball over the opening and let the solution drip into your ear canal.
  • Keep your head tilted for three to four minutes.
  • Tilt your head downwards to let any excess solution drain back out.
  • Wipe the area around the opening of your ear with a clean cloth to remove softened wax.

2. Olive Oil

Olive oil can also soften ear wax. It also lists ‘antiseptic properties’ among its many benefits so it can help reduce your risk of an ear infection as well:

Slightly warm some olive oil. Make sure it isn’t too hot to touch of course, as you should be able to easily bear it against your skin.

Put two to three small drops of the oil into the ear, using a dropper or, ask someone to do it for you.

Let the solution settle for ten minutes and then tilt your head to remove any excess.

Repeat the process before bedtime for 3-4 days.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is used in many of the over-the-counter ear drops you can buy for wax removal. It is important that you don’t use this one if you have sensitive skin. Always make sure that the peroxide you use is less than 3% in strength:

Mix together equal parts water and (3% or less) hydrogen peroxide.

Tilt your head sideways and drop a few drops of the solution into your ear (ask someone else to do this for you if you don’t have a dropper).

Make sure you place a towel over your shoulder to catch any loose drips.

Allow the solution to stay in the ear for 10 to 15 minutes. Lie down on a pillow, keeping the treated ear pointed skywards if it helps.

You should feel tickling or a bubbling sensation.

When this sensation stops, remove the solution by tilting your head the other way, and dry your ear with a clean cloth.

4. Vinegar and Rubbing Alcohol Solution

This is a remedy from a bygone age and works by dissolving the ear wax. The antibacterial properties of the vinegar also help keep infection at bay.

Mix equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a small bowl.

Immerse a cotton ball in the solution, then remove it.

Tilt your head so that the ear you want to treat is facing upwards.

Use the cotton ball to apply a small amount of the solution into the opening of the ear.

After four to five minutes, tilt your head back the other way and use a cloth to catch the liquid as it is dispelled from the ear.

Dab clean with a cloth or tissue.

5. Baby Oil or Glycerin (Mineral Oil)

If you have either of these products lying around your house, they are great for softening up your excessive ear wax as well:

Use a dropper or the help of friends and family to put three drops of oil into your ear while it is facing upwards.

Place a cotton ball over the ear opening to help the oil stay in your ear.

After around ten minutes, remove the cotton ball and allow the oil to drain onto a cloth or tissue.

Wipe away any excess soft wax.

Author: TxNaturalPediatrics

By training, I am a American Board Certified Pediatrician. But in my younger years I grew up with natural alternatives. As a mom I have tried to incorporate both for my kids and it has worked wonders. And finally, as I am studying natural & alternative medicines, I realize the beauty and wisdom of living closer to earth. Hence in my practice I integrate both...for acute ailments I follow American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation but for simple and/or chronic conditions I prefer natural alternatives. In western training we were raised to think that "health is the absence of symptoms and problems". But eastern sensibilities has educated me that "Health is state that allows one to use the full capabilities of their body, mind and intellect. Therefore, healthy living is a balanced state of well being: physically, mentally, socially and spiritually." This implies that healing is not a "one-pill-fits-all", but a personalized experience.

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