Hydrogen Peroxide & the Inner Ear

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The ear has three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. The inner ear houses the auditory nerve, which leads directly to the brain. Damage to the inner ear or nerve pathways can cause permanent hearing loss. Hydrogen peroxide can be used to treat various ear-related ailments, but special care must be taken to protect the inner ear.

Earwax Removal

  • Earwax, also known as cerumen, acts as a barrier against water, dust, bacteria and other objects that could damage the ear. However, earwax buildup may lead to hearing loss and infection. Hydrogen peroxide often is used as a home remedy for earwax removal. A few drops of a 3-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide may aid in the removal of earwax. A popping or bubbling sound is fine; this indicates the release of oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide should not be used if there is any type of cut or tear inside the ear.

Bacteria and Viruses

  • Bacteria and viruses in the inner ear can multiply and lead to infections of the inner ear or other parts of the body. Hydrogen peroxide may ward off illness by killing the bacteria and viruses. Use a dropper to place a few drops of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide in one ear. When the bubbling stops, drain that ear and repeat on the other side.

Possible Side Effects

  • Hydrogen peroxide is effective in the removal of earwax as long as it is dispersed in drops and not on a cotton swab. Placing cotton swabs inside the ear canal can push the wax into the inner ear or rupture it. When using hydrogen peroxide inside the ear, water may be left behind. This creates a moist environment that attracts bacteria. Rubbing alcohol is an alternative to hydrogen peroxide as it dries the skin, leaving no water behind for bacterial growth.

Damage to Inner Ear

  • The cochlea, or inner ear, contains two canals and the organ of Corti, which transmits electrical impulses to the brain through the auditory nerve. There is research to suggest that hydrogen peroxide can damage the inner ear. According to a study on sand rats by the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery of Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, "Hydrogen peroxide adversely affects both cochlear and vestibular function. The study demonstrated the effect of a reactive oxygen species on inner ear function and may be useful in the study of mechanisms responsible for this damage and its protection."

Alternative Wax Removal

  • A safe and effective way to keep earwax from building up is to regularly irrigate the ears with a few drops of mineral, baby or olive oil. Lie on your side; place a few drops of the oil in one ear. After letting the oil sit for a few minutes, lie on your other side over a towel to let the oil drip out. Repeat on the opposite ear. When wax buildup is excessive, it is safest to visit a doctor for more extensive wax removal methods.

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