Skip to main content

How to Clean Your Ears

Learn how to clean your ears properly to prevent ear problems and ear infections from Ronald A. Hoffman, M.D. in this Howcast video.


One of the most common conditions of the ear is the buildup of earwax, or
cerumen, as it is medically called. Earwax is the normal product of normal,
healthy ears, and everyone should make some earwax. It serves a protective
function, and it somewhat lubricates the skin of the ear canal.

Earwax is made by sweat glands that have been modified in your ear to
produce wax. Earwax can be soft, it can be hard, it can be yellow, it can
be dark. It really doesn't matter. When earwax builds up, your ear feels
blocked or stuffed, and you feel as though you have a hearing loss.

There are over the counter remedies, such as drops, and little irrigators
which you can use to irrigate your ear. You must be careful, however, that
you don't do this too vigorously. If you have any discomfort or any
dizziness, you should stop immediately and seek medical attention. If you
see your internist, it's likely that someone in your internist's office
will be able to irrigate your ear with solution or use a fine instrument to
clean your ear.

On occasion earwax is so firmly impacted in the ear that you will have to
seek the consultation of a specialist, an ear, nose, and throat physician.
An ear, nose, and throat physician will have special tools and special
instruments that will allow them to clean your ear effectively and

One of the more common methods of cleaning the ear is with a Q-tip, and
this is not advised. The old mother's tale is never put anything in your
ear smaller than your elbow, and it's probably true. Wax generally comes
out of the ear spontaneously. The skin of your ear grows out of your ear in
a radial fashion, and it tends to carry wax to the outside. So if you feel
driven to use a Q-tip, just use it in the very outside in a circular
fashion but don't push it in because more often than not you will simply
push the wax further in your ear impacting it rather than taking it out.

In addition, if you put a Q-tip too deeply in your ear, you can injure your
eardrum. You can cause permanent hearing loss You can cause a hole in your
eardrum. Be careful with Q-tips.

Popular Categories