Frequently Asked Questions About Ear Wax

Everyone produces earwax. One of the first things that we do as audiologists when we examine patients is look in the ears. This allows us to check for cerumen, or earwax, to determine if that is one of the causes of difficulty hearing. For some people, cerumen builds up to the point that it blocks the ear and prevents us from checking the health of the ear drum.

Earwax is necessary! Some earwax is good for the ears. It helps keep the ear clean of debris and bacteria (or even bugs!) and helps protect the thin skin lining of the ear canal. It merely becomes an issue when it builds up to block the ear.

So, what do we do when the earwax is blocking the ear? Well, we don’t use cotton swabs. We can remove the cerumen by using a curette, flushing it out, or using a suction machine. These procedures are not only performed by audiologists in the state of New York, but also by primary care physicians and otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat physicians).

What can you do at home to help clean your ears? Never use cotton swabs, which merely push the wax further down the ear canal, impacting it. Periodically, you can do the following if your ears tend to build up cerumen:

  1. Ear-cleaning drops, which are available over the counter in the pharmacy (usually by the eye care section).
  2. A few drops of mineral oil, used with an eye dropper.
  3. Hydrogen peroxide, mixed one to one with water, and used with an eye dropper.
  4. Warm water in the ears during a shower or a bath.
  5. If cleaning the outside of the ear is necessary, a damp washcloth will suffice.

Earwax does change over time as we age. For some people, it becomes dry and flaky. For others, it becomes harder and sticks more to the skin lining of the ear canal. If you have concerns that you have a buildup of earwax, call us today at (315) 828-6989 (Geneva) or at (585) 919-6738 (Canandaigua) to schedule an appointment. Find out why we say “we hear success stories every day” at Finger Lakes Hearing Center.