Do you clean your ears? Here is what you should know about the do’s and don’ts of ear irrigation

What is a Hearing Loop?
October 22, 2019

Do you need to clean your ears?

If you ever experience impaired hearing, a blocked feeling in the ear, dizziness, or ear pain, you may have a buildup of earwax in your ear. Ear irrigation is one method for removing a buildup of earwax, but there are a few things you should know before you attempt ear irrigation.

First, earwax (also known as cerumen) is normal. It protects the ear canal from bacteria, water, insects, and fungi. It also helps clean and lubricate the ear. However, too much earwax can sometimes build up and create problems, as noted above. In addition to these symptoms, a buildup of earwax can also cause itching or a chronic cough.

If you suffer from a buildup of earwax, your audiologist or primary care physician may recommend a few different treatment methods. Earwax softener drops can be placed in the ear, or your doctor may remove the earwax mechanically. Another option is irrigation, which can be done on your own at home or by a medical professional. You should not attempt ear irrigation unless your audiologist has confirmed that you have a buildup of earwax and recommends this cleaning process.

Whether you perform ear irrigation at home or at the doctor’s office, the basic concept is the same. The idea is to use water to flush out the earwax buildup. If your doctor has recommended that you try ear irrigation at home, you can use the following steps:

  • Sit upright. You can either place a towel on the shoulder to catch the water that drains from the ear, or place a basin under the ear.
  • Gently pull the affected ear upward and backward. This allows the water to more easily enter the ear.
  • Place a syringe of clean, room-temperature water in the ear. Insert it up and toward the back of the ear.
  • Gently press the syringe so that the water enters the ear. If you feel any pressure or pain, you should stop immediately.
  • Dry the ear with a towel or by inserting a few drops of rubbing alcohol into the ear.

You may need to repeat the process up to five times before the earwax buildup will break off. If you try this process five times and do not notice any earwax breaking free, you should speak with your doctor about other options for removing the earwax buildup.

While the above process for ear irrigation is fairly straightforward, there are a few “don’ts” you should know about.

  • Don’t use hot or cold water. This can lead to dizziness or cause the eyes to move back and forth in a fast, side-to-side manner because of acoustic nerve stimulation. In addition, water that is too hot can burn the eardrum. Be sure to use room-temperature water.
  • Don’t perform ear irrigation if you have severe otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), a history of ear damage due to sharp objects in the ear, middle ear disease, eardrum surgery, or radiation therapy to the ear.
  • Don’t continue ear irrigation if you experience dizziness, nausea, or sudden pain during or after ear irrigation.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before you try ear irrigation at home, as he or she will be able to tell you if you have any conditions that may cause problems.

If you believe you may be experiencing earwax buildup and are interested in learning more about ear irrigation for cleaning your ears, we encourage you to contact our office today and schedule an appointment with our experienced audiologist.

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