How to clean the ears is one of the most common question our audiologists get. It’s important to remember that earwax is a natural and important part of the body. Earwax traps dirt and debris, fights infections in and around ears, and keeps the ear from drying out and becoming itchy.

Earwax typically leaves the ear naturally through chewing and other jaw movements. Other than a normal shower or bath routine, most people won’t need to clean their ears. It is not advised to insert cotton swabs or anything else into the ears. Cotton swabs can push earwax further into the ear causing the wax to become impacted. Impacted earwax can stop the eardrum from vibrating properly and can affect hearing.

Normal variations in the ear can cause an excess of ear wax in some people, though. Symptoms of excess ear wax include fullness, pain, or ringing in the ear, difficulty hearing, dizziness, and/or an odor coming from the ear.

If you feel like you have excess earwax the safest thing to do is see your ear care professional. An ear, nose, and throat doctor can decide if the ear has excess wax that should be removed through irrigation or suction. Patients who have an excess of earwax may need to return once or twice a year to prevent earwax buildup.