MMC blog header

How should I keep my ears clean?

January 20th, 2020

If you’ve recently noticed problems with your hearing, a buildupof excess ear wax may be to blame. But before you grab a cotton swab, it’simportant to understand how to safely clean your ears.

Many people choose to use cotton swabs for routine care of theirears.  Although common, this is actually not the most ideal way to keepyour ears clean/manage ear wax.  The use of cotton swabs not only cancause ear wax (medically known as cerumen) to become packed in the ear canal,but can also lead to irritation/inflammation of the ear canals and evenincrease the likelihood of ear canal infection.  Additionally, accidentsoften occur while people are using cotton swabs that can result in damage tothe ear canal or eardrum.  Cotton swabsshould only be used for cleaning the outside portion of the ear and shouldnever be used within the ear canal.

Having some cerumen in the ears is normal and cerumen actually hassome protective effect on the ear canals. Cerumen lubricates the ear canals,preventing drying, and has an antimicrobial effect.  However, cerumen canbe a problem when excess buildup occurs as this can interfere with hearing.

For buildup, commercially prepared ear wax cleaning kits areavailable at most pharmacies.  These kits usually include a bottle ofcarbamide peroxide and a small bulb syringe. Typically, instructions for use will involve placing a small amount ofcarbamide peroxide into the ear and allowing some time for it to dissolve thecerumen while the affected ear is being held upwards.  After this timeframe, the bulb syringe is then used to irrigate the dissolved cerumen from theear using warm water.

To prevent on ongoing buildup of cerumen in the ears, a few dropsof mineral oil can also be placed alternately into the ear canals and allowedto remain in the ear canal for approximately 10 min.  This can be held inplace either by gravity with keeping treated ear upwards for this time or byuse of a cotton ball placed at the opening of the ear canal. Afterwards, wipingaway any excess/draining oil should prevent this from dripping onto clothing.

If significant cerumen buildup is noted, evaluation by anotolaryngologist is recommended for manual removal.  At your appointment,your ENT provider will typically use a binocular microscope and a combinationof suction and instruments to clear away the excess wax.  It should alsobe noted that this is the preferred method for cerumen removal if a known holein the eardrum exists, as the other above-mentioned techniques are notrecommended if eardrum perforation is present.

If you are still experiencing hearing problems after your earcanals are free of excess cerumen, it may be time for your ENT to conductfurther testing. To learn more about our Otolaryngology Specialists, visit

Posted by Murfreesboro Medical Clinic | Topic: ENT  | Category: Audiology
Murfreesboro Medical Clinic | 615-893-4480 | see all locations
close this layer

Murfreesboro Medical Clinic will continue to require face masks, regardless of vaccination status, in all facilities for all patients and visitors ages 2 and above.

Click here to read our full statement

pixel image