Ear Cleaning

Earwax can be a pesky substance, one that we all have some experience with. When earwax builds up in the ears, you can feel it as it creates symptoms including: a sense of fullness in the ears, hearing challenges, discomfort or pressure, and tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing noise in the ears). One of the most common ways people use to clean their ears is using a cotton swab. Research has found that over 70% of people use cotton swabs to clean their ears, making this a household item. But healthcare providers and ear health experts strongly advise against this method of ear cleaning. 

 

In fact, cotton swabs were actually never made to primarily remove earwax and it can actually be dangerous. This strategy can push earwax further into the ear, causing infection or injury. It is important to safely clean your ears and the best way to do this may be to see an ear care specialist, especially if earwax regularly accumulates in your ears.

What is earwax?

Earwax, or cerumen, is a natural substance that is produced in the ears. Not a type of wax at all, its name comes from the fact that it is sticky. This substance is a mixture of sweat - produced by glands in the ear - dead skin cells, hair and other moisture that accumulates in the ears. Earwax is actually important for the health of the ears because it: 

  • Keeps the ears moisturized, preventing dryness and irritation. 

  • Traps dirt and bacteria, preventing infection. 

The antibacterial properties of earwax helps maintain the ecosystem of the ears. Earwax usually migrated out of the ears naturally. This happens through jaw movements produced by eating and talking which motions earwax towards the opening of the ears, eventually flaking off with the help of water from showering. But this natural process doesn’t always happen which can cause earwax to build up in the ears, known as impacted earwax.

Impacted Earwax

Impacted earwax is an issue that many people deal with. It is estimated that over 35 million people in the U.S. experience earwax. Additionally, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 12 million people seek medical care for impacted earwax and over 8 million earwax removal procedures are performed every year. A few factors can lead to earwax building up in the ears, this includes: 

  • Some people simply produce more earwax than others (more hair in the ear canal can contribute to this). 

  • Ear infections

  • Inner ear disorders

  • Bone growths or abnormalities in the ear canal

  • Autoimmune conditions 

These factors can either contribute to greater earwax production or create obstructions that prevent earwax from making its way out of the ears. An accumulation of earwax can cause the following symptoms: 

  • Feeling like ears are clogged or full

  • Discomfort, pain, irritation

  • Pressure in the ears 

  • Discharge from the ears

  • Tinnitus 

  • Challenges hearing 

Excess earwax that remains in the ears can amplify these symptoms and lead to more significant issues like hearing loss or an ear infection. It is important to remove earwax safely and thoroughly. A great way to do this is by seeing a hearing healthcare specialist who is trained to effectively clean the ears. 

Earwax Removal

Having your ears professionally cleaned is a great way to remove excess earwax that may be more challenging for you to extract. Our team is able to do this with care and effectiveness, using specific tools designed for the ears. This process starts by taking a look into your ears with an otoscope which allows us to shine a light into your ears and thoroughly inspect. Once we have a better sense of your ears and the earwax we need to remove, there are a few ways we extract earwax and clean the ears: 

  • Ear irrigation: this method of earwax removal and cleaning involves using water or a saline solution to flush earwax out. We insert the liquid into the ear using a syringe like instrument to then soften and extract earwax. 

  • Curette: this is a long tool that is curved at the end which we use to carefully scrape earwax from the ear canal. 

We may do a few rounds of cleaning to ensure that your ears are thoroughly cleaned and all earwax has been removed. Contact us today to learn more!