It may be gross, but from time to time, it’s easy to forget about cleaning our ears. It might surprise you to know that may not be the worst thing for them. Overcleaning can be bad for your ears, causing irritation and infections if done regularly.
Our ears are self-cleaning, so they don’t need constant cleansing. However, we should all be carrying out basic hygiene. This includes removing any extra wax and keeping any dirt out of the ears.
So, how often should you clean your ears? And how do you keep on top of excess earwax? In this article, we’ll cover why we have earwax, how to safely clean your ears, and when you’ll need to seek extra help.
Why do Ears Produce Earwax?
Everyone, from young to old, produces earwax. Earwax, medically known as cerumen, is a sticky liquid that lubricates and protects your ears. It’s mainly made up of fat, made in the exterior part of the ear canal, helping you avoid any infections.
Once finished with its purpose, earwax starts to move towards the outer ear. This is safe to clean, as long as you stay in the outer area and don’t touch the inner canal. There are some people whose ears make more wax than others.
They will have to clean their ears more frequently, as a buildup of wax can cause health problems. These include hearing loss, ear odor, and Tinnitus.
Why Shouldn’t I Clean My Ears?
Inserting cotton swabs into your ears is one of the worst things you can do for your hearing. The ears are self-cleaning, they don’t need extra care. Some people, like older adults, make more earwax than others, but they should still leave cotton swabs alone.
When inserted into the ear, cotton swabs can push earwax further into the canal. This is difficult to remove. Earwax plugs pressed further towards the eardrum can cause infections. Cotton swabs can also damage the sensitive lining of the ear canal. These can all lead to hearing loss later down the line.
Producing earwax isn’t a bad thing, and it’s not an indicator of bad hygiene. Earwax is necessary to moisturize the lining of the ear canal, stopping it from drying out. It also traps dead skin and prevents dust, dirt, and bacteria from entering the inner ear.
The amount of earwax you produce depends on many factors, including age, ethnicity, and environment. Earwax isn’t pretty, but it’s a sign that your ears are working properly.
However, if you’re worried about the amount of earwax you produce, you can schedule an appointment with an audiologist. After an exam, they will be able to tell you whether you have an issue or not. They’ll also be able to help heal any conditions caused by excess wax.
How To Clean Your Ears
You don’t need to have a health issue with your ears to clean them, but if you want to do so, you need to know how to clean them safely. Many people don’t know about the danger of cotton swabs, or know that they aren’t supposed to insert anything into the ear canal. The method you should use to clean your ears depends on how much earwax you produce.
Method One – If you have a normal amount of earwax
If you haven’t had any issues with your ears before, then most likely, you make a normal amount of earwax. You won’t need to do too much to clean your ears, as their self-cleaning ability will do most of the work for you. After you shower, use a washcloth to gently clean your outer ear.
Method Two: If you sometimes produce too much earwax
From time to time, our ears can make more earwax than normal. Some things can trigger this, like wearing headphones regularly, pollution, or irritated skin. It might not be easy to identify the cause, so if you’re wondering if you have a buildup of earwax, here are some things to look out for:
- Difficulty Hearing: If your hearing sounds muffled like you’re in a tunnel, it may not be due to hearing loss. Excess earwax could be causing this.
- Tinnitus: If you hear a popping or ringing in your ears, this is called Tinnitus. There are lots of reasons why Tinnitus occurs, but earwax could be one of them.
- Earache or Pain: If you believe that you have an ear infection, but don’t have any symptoms, this could be due to excess earwax.
- Ears Feeling ‘Blocked’: If you have a buildup of earwax, your ears can feel and sound blocked.
If you have a little extra earwax, several home remedies can help. Some of these are warm olive oil, warm water, or over-the-counter drops. If you try some of these treatments, remember to only use them in small amounts.
Using these often can remove too much earwax, which can make the ear canal dry and sensitive. It’s easy to use too much, so always follow the recommended directions. Don’t use these methods more than once a day, and only use them one to two times a week. Once the extra wax is cleaned, discontinue use completely.
Method Three: If you regularly produce excess earwax
If you regularly produce extra earwax, this is probably due to your genetics. If you’ve tried some of the methods above, or are still getting infections despite cleaning your ears constantly, seek a health professional.
You can see them for regular cleanings, or ask them for advice on managing the earwax between appointments.
For the most part, you don’t have to do anything extra to clean your ears. However, if you want to do so, the method you use depends on the amount of earwax you produce. In most cases, wiping the outer ear with a washcloth is all you need to keep your ears clean.
No matter how much earwax you produce, never use a cotton swab, as these can damage your hearing. If you’re worried about the amount of earwax in your ears, or have any other related questions, seek advice from a professional.