How To Get Rid of Ear Wax

Ear wax is a natural substance produced by glands in the ears to protect your delicate ear drums from invasive irritants like bacteria, dust, and insects. In most cases, the ear wax is produced at an appropriate level to guard the ear canals without causing any difficulties, in which case there is no need to remove it—and in fact, you can cause problems by removing the ear wax which is there to perform a beneficial function. In some cases, however, a person’s ear canal builds up excessive amounts of wax, which can cause ear aches, tinnitus (the sensation of “ringing ears”), hearing difficulties, balance problems, or even infection.

Wax Build-up in the Ear Canals

In most people, wax is produced in appropriate amounts, and sheds from the ear canals as old wax is replaced by new. For some, however, the yellow waxy buildup can get out of control when overactive glands go into overdrive on wax production. A person whose ear canals are unusually narrow may experience wax blockages due to the small size of the passageway rather than to actual wax over production. Those with unusually hairy ear canals may suffer wax buildup due to the fact that the older wax doesn’t shed easily if it becomes entangled in ear hairs. Other people who frequently suffer from problematic wax buildup include those who work in excessively dusty environments (because the ear wax doing its job of “catching” particles can transform into blocky chunks of dust-packed wax when there are an excessive number of particles entering the ear canal) and people with inflammatory skin conditions (which can trigger overproduction of protective wax).


Preventing and Treating Ear Wax Buildup

Wax production in the ears can be affected, in either a stimulating or a repressive manner, by the contents of a person’s diet. Diets including plenty of omega 3 fatty acids—found in foods such as flax seed oil, walnuts, salmon, and avocados—can discourage wax production. Conversely, dairy products irritate some people’s systems, causing reactions which can include wax production in the ears.

Removing excess ear wax should not be attempted with small objects like Q-tips, which can actually act to push the wax further into the ear and further pack down the wax buildup. Jabbing into the ear with a small instrument like this can also cause damage to the delicate eardrum, causing far more serious problems than those posed by the original wax buildup.

A gentle approach to wax removal is to tilt your head under a warm stream of water in the shower, allowing the warm water to collect in the ear canal and soften and dislodge the built up wax. Be sure to tilt your head in the other direction afterward to allow the water to drain completely from the ear canal. A similar procedure can also be undertaken with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in place of the warm water. In severe cases, a physician’s help may be enlisted to remove wax manually; your doctor has tools to undertake the process without causing damage.