Your ears are designed to be self-cleaning and will normally produce enough earwax to prevent problems occurring, eventually making its way out of the ear
Many people use cotton buds in an effort to ‘clean’ their ears from excess wax, but you’re actually more likely to cause earwax blockage and further issues. Rather than removing the earwax, it instead pushes it further into the ear, which leads to a build-up, or impacted earwax.
That’s why for the most part, ear cleaning should be left to the professionals. But in certain situations, it may be useful to understand how to clean your ears at home naturally, like using ear cleaning drops and solutions when recommended by a pharmacist or other healthcare professional.
If you’re struggling with ear wax build-up, learn more about professional earwax removal or call your local store to book an appointment with our hearing care professionals.
What is the best way to clean your ears?
The best way to clean your ears is to leave them to do what they do naturally. They’ll normally produce enough earwax to keep your ears healthy and protected, but if you produce an excessive amount, or it becomes impacted, there are a couple of things you can do at home to keep them in good condition generally before you go to see a professional to determine the best option for you.
How to clean your ears at home using ear cleaning drops and solutions
For mild cases of earwax build-up, your pharmacist, GP or audiology professional might recommend that you use eardrops to help to dissolve the earwax and prevent it from drying out (dried earwax is harder for the ear canal to naturally push out than soft wax). You’ll most likely have to do this for a few days, after which the earwax should fall out naturally.
You should always speak to a pharmacist, GP, or audiology professional before putting anything in your ears, and always read the leaflet supplied with any drops.
Advice around cleaning your ears at home
Are cotton buds safe to use?
Cotton buds can pose a lot of unnecessary risk to your ear health and are not ear cleaners. They can actually push the wax further into the ear canal and put pressure on, or even damage, your eardrum – so it’s best to avoid using them.
Are at-home earwax removal kits safe?
You should avoid buying any at-home earwax removal kits without first getting some advice from an audiologist or pharmacist. They’ll be able to recommend the safest way to remove earwax.
How can I clean my ears without cotton buds?
If a healthcare professional recommends it for you, you can use ear cleaning drops and solutions to allow the earwax to soften and fall out naturally. Alternatively, you can use a damp cloth and your own fingers to clean any dead skin or other debris from your outer ear. To do this you’ll need to dampen a cloth with warm water and, using it to cover your finger, run it around the curves of your ear (just make sure you don’t poke your finger into your ear canal.
Can olive oil dissolve earwax naturally?
Olive oil is not an ear cleaner, it can sometimes be used to soften earwax, but it can’t dissolve it. You shouldn’t put anything in your ears if you have a history of ear infections or if your eardrum is damaged — so it’s always best to get some advice from a professional before you try this.
It's important that the wax is soft to make the procedure as comfortable and effective as possible. We recommend using medicated oil drops, or a spray such as Earol, once per day in the affected ear and repeat for 5 days. Be sure to follow their guidance carefully and only to do this when advised by an expert.
Dos and don’ts on how to remove earwax
How often should you clean your ears?
Cleverly, our ears are self-cleaning, so generally speaking, they shouldn’t require any cleaning on a regular basis. It’s best to leave them to do what they do best.
Earwax plays an important part in your ear health — it’s naturally anti-bacterial and helps to protect the delicate skin in the ear — so it’s only necessary to remove it when it’s causing you problems.
The only time it may be necessary to clean your ears is if you have issues with excessive earwax that is affecting your hearing, or you’re experiencing the associated symptoms such as:
- Itchy ears
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- Tinnitus (ringing)
- Hearing loss
- Earache or pain
If you naturally produce a lot of earwax that makes you more susceptible to build-ups, a professional will advise you on how often you should get them cleaned.
Complications of ear cleaning
Putting anything in your ear yourself poses the risk of damaging the eardrum or the delicate skin in the ear canal. You could also push the earwax further into your ear, ultimately making the build-up worse. It’s best to leave it to a professional who has a good view inside your ear and knows what to do.
The golden rule is to never put anything into your ear that is smaller than your elbow ¬¬– that includes things like cotton buds or hairpins that could damage or perforate your eardrum.
You may have had ear irrigation from your doctor before, but you should never do this yourself. In fact, evidence suggests that cleaning earwax with water, even professionally, has a risk of causing an ear infection, which requires further treatment.
Is there specialised advice for people who wear hearing aids?
Earwax can sometimes prevent hearing aids working to their full potential, so regular cleaning and maintenance is important to keep up with — a yearly appointment is also a good idea. If you feel your hearing has changed or you have any of the symptoms of impacted earwax, you should get in touch with your audiologist for a check-up.
If you want to seek specialist advice, book an appointment with an audiologist to find out which treatment is right for you.