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Having ear wax is healthy and normal, but sometimes, ear wax can build up in the ears to increase the risk for hearing-related issues, including tinnitus and mild hearing loss. In these instances, removing ear wax is critical to protect hearing, though it should be performed in a certain way to avoid injuring the eardrums or causing permanent hearing loss.

About Ear Wax

Ear wax is produced in the ear canal, where it helps protect tissues in the ears and traps debris like dirt and dust to prevent infection. Over a few months, this wax naturally travels to the outer ear, where it can drop out or be easily removed using a bulb syringe or mineral oil. Sometimes, ear wax stays inside the ears, where it can build up to cause symptoms that affect hearing.

Symptoms of Ear Wax Buildup

Ear wax buildup can make it difficult to hear and lead to an earache or ear infection. Other symptoms of ear wax buildup include:

  • Ringing in the ear, known as tinnitus.
  • A sensation of fullness inside the ear.
  • Mild deafness or hearing loss that may gradually become worse.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Ears

The ears are designed to naturally clean themselves. However, many people clean their inner ears, thinking it is a safe hygiene practice, when doing so can actually cause damage to the ears.

The rule of thumb when cleaning the ears is to clean only the visible areas, such as the outer ears. Cleaning the outer ears once or twice a week can help soften and remove old, unsightly ear wax.

How to Properly Remove Ear Wax

Ear wax that drains to the outer ear can be safely and effectively removed using one of several methods. These methods include:

  • Using ear cleaning drops, which can help soften ear wax and help it fall out on its own.
  • Using a bulb syringe to squirt warm water into the ear canal, where it can help loosen and drain the wax plug, or buildup.
  • Applying mineral oil or olive oil to the inner ear, which can help soften the wax and help it come out on its own.
  • Seeing an audiologist who can use special tools and substances to safely remove the wax plug.

Common Ear Wax Removal Methods to Avoid

Cotton swabs, fingertips, ear wax removal candles, and water flossers are among the most common methods some people use to clean their ears and remove ear wax. However, these ear wax removal methods can further compact the wax and cause additional damage to the ear canal.

An audiologist can recommend the best ear wax removal methods to use and a safe and high-quality ear wax removal kit.

When You Should See an Audiologist for Ear Cleaning

Ear wax buildup and the use of ineffective ear cleaning techniques are some of the best reasons to see an audiologist for a professional ear cleaning. Audiologists are trained in proper ear-cleaning techniques and have access to special tools and instruments that can unblock ear wax and pave the way for better hearing.

Here are signs that indicate it may be time to see an audiologist for ear cleaning:

  • Tinnitus
  • Itching in the ears
  • Excess earwax buildup
  • Swimmer’s ear (an infection in the outer ear canal)
  • Muffled hearing
  • Ear wax that has an unpleasant odor

Sonora Hearing Care is devoted to working with you to protect your hearing and reduce your risk for hearing loss. Our audiologists can show you how to remove ear wax safely. Contact us today at (520) 881-8740 to request an appointment and to learn more about our many available hearing services.