The safest method of ear cleaning and earwax removal, as recommended by most doctors and ear specialists, is to avoid doing it yourself at all. Since ear wax naturally works its way to the opening of the ear, gently wiping the opening with a warm, wet washcloth or towel is sufficient for most people in most situations. If excessive earwax buildup is a problem and cleaning the inside of the ear canal is necessary, doctors and ear specialists recommend setting an appointment to come into the office to have the ears cleaned. If this is not a feasible solution, home cleaning kits that use water, ear cleaning solution, or oil to melt and gently flush out the wax are available and generally preferred over methods that require insertion of an object, such as cotton swabs, into the ear canal.
One of the reasons doctors encourage people not to remove earwax with home methods is because of the risk of pushing the wax into the ear canal further. This can block the canal and interfere with hearing. Some of the instruments inserted into the ear canal during ear cleaning can also puncture the ear drum, causing pain and hearing loss.
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Doctors warn against sticking anything, even a cotton swab, into the ears. Additionally, earwax, medically known as cerumen, acts as a sort of cleanser for the ear canal, trapping dirt and other particles before they hit the inner workings of the ear and killing several types of bacteria and fungus which might otherwise thrive in the ear canal. Therefore, most of the time, earwax can be left inside the ear with little or no harmful effects other than aesthetic issues.
One of the safer methods of home ear cleaning is irrigation with clean, warm water or a cleaning solution that may be purchased at most drug stores. The instructions for these techniques vary, but generally a syringe is filled with the liquid and gently squirted into the ear canal to dislodge and wash out excess earwax. Alternatively, letting some warmed oil or ear cleaning eardrops sit for a short time in the ear canal can be effective at melting or dissolving earwax, allowing the wax to then easily drain out. These methods should only be used in ears with healthy, unpunctured eardrums. Irrigating an infected ear or punctured eardrum will most likely be very painful and may aggravate the condition further.