Why You Should Never Try To Remove Your Own Earwax

earwax removal - girl cleans the ears

Earwax can often be thought of as a pest, something that causes a mess and can block up your ears, making them uncomfortable. But the reality is very different.

Most of the time, earwax plays a very important role in protecting your ear canal. It can pick up germs, bugs, foreign bodies like dust and even living creepy-crawlies that might otherwise find your ear an attractive hole to crawl into.

Such thoughts might make you wince, but it is important to appreciate that earwax is there for a good reason. The substance it is made of, cerumen, is not actually wax at all, so there’s no point trying to mould it into candles.

The time when earwax becomes an issue is when there is an excess of it and some becomes hard, impairing your hearing and causing discomfort. Often, the temptation is to try to remove it yourself, perhaps using cotton wool buds. But if you need earwax removal you really should entrust this to a specialist with the right equipment.

Speaking to US-based health and wellbeing publication The Healthy recently, two experts, ear nose and throat doctor Greg Roscoe, and Brian Taylor, the director of an audiology practice, offered some clear advice to anyone thinking of trying to clear out earwax by themselves: not so much D.I.Y as D.O.N.T.

Dr Roscoe noted that using cotton wool buds is a counterproductive exercise, as it will commonly push the earwax deeper and compact it more, which makes the blockage larger and harder to shift.

The ear itself, Dr Taylor explained, is basically self-cleaning, with tiny hairs helping to expel small fragments of dry earwax, so it does not build up too much.

This does mean it can collect on the outside of the ear, which is, he noted, the one instance when you can clean it. “Using soap and water with a washcloth to gently clean the outer ear is usually sufficient to keep your ears clear of excess wax,” he said.

The key point in this case is that the wax is outside the ear canal, so it can be wiped away, which is a very different scenario to when it is in the confined space inside the ear and you might be tempted to use something to poke at it.

Dr Roscoe suggested the best way to manage earwax generally is to treat your eyes like you would your eyes. He commented: “Just as you regularly have your eyes checked, your ears also need routine examinations.”

Doing this might help prevent a major problem from arising. But, of course, the time when many people will call for help will only be when a problem arises. When that is the case, however, there is one way to make things better – and one to make it worse.

There are many symptoms of earwax build-up, including hearing loss, vertigo, earaches and tinnitus. Whatever the signs are telling you that something has to be done, don’t hesitate to get the right sort of help. You will be very glad that you did.