How to Clean Ears of Wax

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Wax in the ears is unsightly and can keep you from hearing sounds properly. Remove wax from the ears safely with help from a practicing doctor in this free video.

Part of the Video Series: Ears 101
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Dr. David Hill, and today we're going to be talking about how to clean ears of wax. Now, ear wax occurs in everybody. It's a very protective substance. If you start to understand ear wax, it's really amazing. It has an acid nature to it that protects you against invasion from bacteria and viruses and parasites. It will actually sort of trap things that are trying to get into your ear and infect you, and it has some antibacterial properties to it. So, what I say is ear wax is good. It's supposed to be there. But, sometimes you get a little bit of a build up of ear wax. Now, ear wax normally cleans itself out of the ear. The ear has a self cleaning mechanism. There are a couple of things that happen. The skin on the inside of the ear canal actually grows outward, so it works like a little conveyor belt carrying wax out from the inside of the ear canal to the outside of the ear canal. There are also little ciliated hairs that help push the wax out. So that's why in most cases wax does not become trapped in the ear. People who have to wear ear plugs frequently for work, or people who use cotton swabs--Q tips--interfere with that process by shoving wax back into the ear where it can become impacted. Now, you can try to loosen it up yourself. There are over the counter medications, such as Debrox, that you can use. You can make sort of a warmish solution of water and peroxide--hydrogen peroxide--to dribble into the ear to try and loosen the wax up and get it to wash out of there once it's a little bit softer and more liquidy. I would not recommend putting anything in your ear to try and get the wax out. We do that in the doctor's office under very careful observation. Ear, nose, and throat doctors actually have little suckers they can use to get the wax, but when you start digging around in there, you run a really serious risk of injuring the eardrum or the soft delicate tissue on the inside of the ear. That soft tissue inside the ear canal was never meant to deal with the outside world, and it's incredibly easy to introduce an infection or cause bleeding in there. So I don't recommend putting anything in there. Your best bet, first of all, is to leave the ear alone. Second of all, wash it out gently with a washcloth in the bath tub or the shower. And third of all, if you think you've got a really serious wax impaction, seek care from a doctor and see if he or she can help you get it out of there. Talking about how to remove wax from the ear, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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