It is incredibly satisfying to clean your ears with cotton swabs.
But if your parents haven’t already warned you – experts say using earbuds could be dangerous.
Before we delve into why let’s look at why ear wax should actually be left untouched.
Ear wax isn’t a sign that you’re unclean or dirty – it is completely natural.
It is produced by the cells lining your outer ear and ear canal and is made up of a natural oily substance produced in the sebaceous glands.
This natural oil gets mixed up with dirt, sweat and dead skin cells, which is what comes out when you use a cotton bud to clean your ears.
Ear wax acts as a barrier and protects against viruses and harmful bacteria from entering the ear canal.
The ears are normally self-cleaning.
But if you do have a build-up of wax that is making your ears feel full, you have an earache or you’re struggling to hear, then you may want to clean the ears out.
Dr. Jerry Lin, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the University of Louisville, said that sometimes you might have to visit the doctor.
But there are things you can do at home – which do not involve ear swabs.
He explained that picking out a little bit of wax from the front of the ear is okay but that you should never put a cotton bud in there.
He explained: “Q-Tips are a bad idea.
“They take up much of the canal diameter. Therefore, using them packs the wax deeper into the ear canal.
“In the worst-case scenario, the wax could be packed against the eardrum and possibly even create an eardrum perforation.”
This could potentially cause hearing loss, earache, itchiness in the ear or a buzzing in the ear (tinnitus).
Dr. Lin also urged against some ear cleaning hacks online.
You shouldn’t try trends such as ‘ear candling’, Dr. Lin said, which involves dropping hot wax into your ear.
Another viral hack involves pouring hydrogen peroxide into the ears while lying on your side, before sitting up and allowing it to run out.
While some doctors use this as a legitimate ear cleaning strategy, there is the risk of skin irritation and blistering.
SAFE EAR CLEANING SOLUTIONS
1. Ear drops
Dr. Lin said that using ear drops can help with waxy ears.
The liquid solutions help thin and soften the ear wax, which leads to it breaking down and leaving the ear.
You can buy ear drops in pharmacies and they are usually under brand names such as Otex and Otosan.
You should always read the label when taking any medication as you need to know how many ear drops to administer.
Speaking to Insider, Dr. Lin said that usually, the drops will work immediately, but that if there is stubborn wax then it might take a few tries to get rid of it.
One previous study, published in 2018 found that using ear drops for five days is more likely to completely clear the wax, rather than not using anything at all.
2. Baking soda solution
Another way you can clean your ears just requires something many people already have in their kitchen cupboards.
Dr. Lin suggested an easy-to-make baking soda solution – but said you should only use this method for two weeks.
All you need to do is dissolve half a teaspoon of baking soda in water and use a dispenser or dropper bottle to tip it into.
Then tilt your head to the side and drop five to ten drops of the solution into your ear.
After around an hour, the wax should have softened and you then need to rinse the ear by using a rubber syringe filled with warm water.
When finished you need to tip your head to the side in order to let the water drain out.
Make sure you dry your ear with a clean, dry towel and you can do this once a day until the ear clears up.
3. Olive oil
You can also use natural remedies to clear your ears such as oil – but make sure it’s baby oil, mineral oil, coconut oil or olive oil.
These can all be used to soften and remove ear wax and again, you need to use a dropper bottle to pop it into your ear.
Wait a day or two for the wax to soften and then rinse it out again with warm water, as explained with the baking soda technique.
Once you have tipped the water out of your ear you then need to dry your ear again.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.