When your ears feel blocked up because of excess wax and dirt, the natural thing to do is give them a good clean. However, you may not know that blasting your ears with water in the shower could also one of the worst things that you could do for your ears. Ear cleaning should not involve anything physically going into the ear canal, nor should it involve any oils or creams or pressure washes heading down the ear hole.

Excess wax can sometimes accumulate and make hearing difficult, but that doesn’t mean that the first option to turn to is a cotton swab and an ear candle. The first place you should turn if you are having issues with impacting wax should be your audiologist for advice. A blockage in your ear can lead to infection and that can lead to a world of pain, and; no one wants to cope with that level of pain. Safely cleaning your ears is the name of the game and we’ve got the lowdown on how to get that done without damaging your hearing or further aggravating tinnitus symptoms that you may already be experiencing.

Symptoms of impaction

Cerumen – the medical term for earwax – is created by the body and for the body. This means that it has a purpose and this is to stop debris and dirt making its way into your ear canal and damaging the inner ear. Once it’s served its purpose, it works its way to the outer ear and then it can be cleaned properly. Chewing and moving the jaw while speaking helps the wax to move up and out of the ears.

Some people never clean their ears – largely, most never need to – but while wax has a purpose it can still build up too much and cause a blockage in the ear canal. This is called impaction. Some of the symptoms of impaction include:

  • Earache
  • Full feeling in the ear
  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Hearing loss
  • An unpleasant odor coming from the affected ear
  • Dizziness and balance issues
  • A cough, which usually is the result of a ‘tickling’ feeling in the ear canal

Excess wax is far more likely to develop if you have hearing aids or any earplugs in use as the ear has less chance to ‘breathe.’ In these cases, ear cleaning can be performed by an audiologist and they can make sure that the ear is completely unblocked and free of wax. The Audiology and Hearing Aid Center is one of the best places to book your appointment if you are dealing with any of the conditions that result from impacted wax.

Best practice for ear cleaning

Ideally, you do not have to clean your ears with anything – but this pertains to the ear canal as mentioned earlier on. For the best ways to keep your ears clean, try one of the following suggestions:

  • A damp cloth: Cotton swabs may push debris deeper into the ear but a damp cloth won’t have the same effect. Use it on the outer ear to clear away dirt.
  • Wax softeners: Never resort to ear candles or pure oils, but speak to your audiologist about over-the-counter remedies that work. Ear drops can soften the wax, helping it to move to the outer ear quickly and without pain.
  • Syringe: Generally, if your ears need syringing, this is performed by your physician as it’s not the most comfortable procedure (and the angle just isn’t right trying to do it yourself!).

What to avoid

We have mentioned not adding cotton swabs to the inner ear, but this goes for bobby pins and anything else you could dig around with. It’s not worth the pain of hitting too deep and you could do permanent damage to your hearing and the structure of the inner ear.

Irrigation is another method to avoid if you have issues with your ears already. This is because you don’t need to rinse out if there are holes in the eardrum. You’re only going to cause more damage. The best thing that you can do for impaction is have an appointment with your audiologist, who is going to be trained to help you.

For more information on comprehensive and professional audiology services, please contact the Audiology and Hearing Aid Center at (920) 969-1768 for an appointment.