Earwax: Facts and Myths

Posted 04 April 2019
Understanding earwax and ear care is imperative in order to maintain optimum hearing health. HCC Ear Care Practitioner Jackie Arnold-Burns answers patients' common questions about earwax.

Earwax: Facts and Myths

Should I clean my ears?

In normal situations ears are self-cleaning and actually have antibacterial properties. Acting like a filter for your ears, wax collects dead skin, dust and foreign bodies. When you move your jaw, the wax moves along the ear canal to the ear opening where it can either dry up, flake off or fall out.

It is a common misconception that earwax is formed in the deep part of your ear canal. It is however made in the outer section and a blockage can be because wax has manually been pushed deeper.

Should I wash inside my ears?

This may seem like a good idea, but this can upset the natural pH balance of the ear canal and leads to the possibility of water being trapped. Being a dark, warm and moist place this can leave the ear canal prone to infection.

Can I use cotton buds?

The use of cotton buds and other implements (such as hair grips, pen tops, paper clips etc) is more likely to push any wax further into the ear canal causing blockages and discomfort. It is also possible that the delicate skin lining will be damaged and the natural bacterial flora of the ear disturbed increasing the chances of infection. Our advice is never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow!

Does olive oil remove earwax?

Olive oil and other remedies used in ear care will not necessarily remove wax by itself, but can be used as an effective ‘softening agent’. Administering olive oil 5 days preceding professional removal will reduce discomfort and facilitate easier removal of earwax.

Regular use of olive oil may depend upon the type and nature of wax production and if your ears are itchy and in need of some extra lubrication. Personally, we recommend Earol spray for general softening and Miracell ProEar for itchy and irritated ears.

Are Hopi Candles safe to use?

Hopi Candles have been suggested to be an ancient method of removing wax from the ears. However they have been strongly disclaimed by the NHS as having no scientific evidence in their effectiveness, and can be quite dangerous.

Why seek professional ear care?

There are a variety of self-cleaning implements available that make claims about how easy it is to clean one's own ears. The ear is a delicate, well balanced structure that can easily be damaged. Putting aside any obvious danger involved in the use of these products, the simple truth is that you cannot see inside your own ears and are unlikely to be aware of any possible complications, such as perforated or weak ear drums, the risk of self-harm or infection.

A dedicated Ear Care Practitioner is trained not only to facilitate the safe and comfortable removal of earwax with a variety of different methods, but they are equally trained to recognise diseases of the ear and features that are unusual and also know when to onward refer to specialist medical practitioners.

Our Clinical Ear Care team run a series of regular earwax removal clinics, to find one nearest to you please click here. We have also recently announced that we will be launching a brand new earwax removal clinic in addition to our regular hearing care clinic in Dereham. To find out more click here.