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Removing Ear Wax Safely: How to Remove Ear Wax at Home

Written by

Jeanne Graulich
Jeanne Graulich
Jeanne Graulich, MA, CCC-A is an audiologist on staff to guide your hearing aid journey in a safe and practical way. Jeanne brings over 30 years of experience fitting hearing aids, specializing in fittings with adults. Her passion for improving communication and overall quality of life shines through in every interaction.

Ear wax is the common term for Cerumen, a substance produced by the skin cells in the ear canal in order to protect and lubricate the ear.  In healthy ears, it will move out of the ear canal naturally.  Cerumen can collect in the ear canal when it is narrow or curvy. In older individuals, the movement of the wax slows down, which can begin a blockage.  Hearing aids or earplugs can disrupt the natural outward movement of wax in some people.  An accumulation of earwax can cause a full feeling in the ear, progressive difficulty hearing, tinnitus (noises in the ears), itchiness, discharge, ear odor, or dizziness.

Q-tips or bobby pins put in the ear canal push the wax in further and can potentially damage the ear canal or eardrum. Though called wax, cerumen is not actually wax.  Using a candle to melt “ear wax” is advertised as a method for cerumen removal.  Exposing the ear to a flame is very dangerous, potentially causing burns or damage to the eardrum.

Refer to read, Hearing health and diet.

Self-diagnosis of earwax can be tricky since the symptoms of earwax presence are also symptoms of serious medical problems.  Video lights with or without cleaning tools and  Earlights designed for home use are available over the internet or at some retail establishments or medical supply vendors.  There are several methods to remove earwax in the comfort of your own home.  If you have a known eardrum perforation (hole in the eardrum) it is not safe to put any liquids in your ears.  Solutions such as hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, and over-the-counter designated solutions can soften the wax.  Irrigating the ear utilizing a bulb or syringe with warm water will rinse out the softened wax.  There are commercial kits available for earwax removal. Viewing the ear canal using the ear light can monitor progress. Treatment may need to be repeated several times to be effective.  It is NOT recommended that you use the tools for self-cleaning in a video kit since damage to the ear canal or eardrum is likely to occur.  If you are not successful in removing the wax or if reactions occur, consult with a doctor.