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For most people, the best ear wax remedy is to take no action at all, because ear wax will naturally leave the ear without assistance. When wax collects and becomes problematic, irrigation is usually your best self-help option. Mineral oil might help to soften and loosen the wax as well. In cases where the wax is severely impacted, or when the ear is damaged or infected, you should consult an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT), who can remove the wax safely.
Your ear produces wax as a defense measure, catching dust and dirt and other foreign objects that enter the ear before they can do any damage. Normally, wax is produced in small amounts and falls away naturally with no cleaning process needed. In fact, attempts to clean the ears might actually prevent wax from leaving the ear, creating the need for an ear wax remedy.
Sticking objects in your ear is not a recommended ear wax remedy. Cotton-tipped swabs might remove some wax, but they often will push wax down the ear canal. Any object placed in the ear is likely to compact the wax rather than remove it. Even ear plugs and hearing aids can have this effect, and if you use either of these devices, you are more likely to require an ear wax remedy.
A few drops of a mineral oil, such as paraffin oil, can soften the wax and help to get it moving again. Olive oil can be used as well. You will need to warm the oil, making it slightly warmer than your body temperature. Overheating can cause severe burns to the sensitive tissue in your ear and is very dangerous.
With a bulb syringe, you can gently spray your ear canal. Warm water or water-and-vinegar solutions are frequently used. You might find that this works best in conjunction with the oil drops, first softening the wax with the oil, then rinsing it away with the water. It’s worth remembering, though, that anything placed in your ear — even water — can compact wax, and you must spray gently to avoid forcing the wax in deeper.
These home remedy steps are not recommended for everyone. If you have experienced any damage to your ear or eardrum, or if you have an ear infection, home irrigation is not recommended, and you will need to consult with an ENT. Similarly, if you were unable to get relief with a home ear wax remedy, a visit to the doctor might be in order.
Your ENT has a few options available to clear the wax. One option might be irrigation, sometimes using stronger solutions or pressurized water. Wax can be scooped away using a device called a curette, or gentle suction can be used to clear your ear canal. These techniques require professional skill and should not be attempted at home.