Are You Cleaning Your Ears Correctly?

22126

It can seem like nearly everyone has an opinion on what’s right when it comes to cleaning your ears. Q-tips are bad, but “baby” Q-tips are OK. Some swear by cleaning your ears after every shower, while others maybe do it once a week – if at all.

So, what’s the truth? Here, Ilaaf Darrat, M.D., a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at Henry Ford Health System, provides the facts when it comes to how to properly care for your ears.

Fact #1: You don’t need to clean your ears.

Yes, you read that right.

“Wax development is a normal process, and it’s there to protect the ears,” Dr. Darrat says. “For the majority of people, the wax also naturally works its way out of the ears, so there really isn’t a need to manually clean them. They do that themselves.”

If you see wax coming out, wiping the wax away with a wet wash cloth. There’s no need to go further into your ear to remove wax.

Fact #2: Q-tips can be extremely dangerous.

“The Q-tip itself is the same size as the entrance into the ear canal, so when you use a Q-tip you are actually pushing the wax further in,” Dr. Darrat says. “Of course you will see some wax on the Q-tip, but most of it is getting pushed further into the canal.”

Q-tips can also cause serious — and sometimes permanent — damage when forced through this opening, including hearing loss. Other issues including vertigo or dizziness, breaking the bones in your ear if pushed through the ear drum, and scratching the inside of the ear which can lead to infection.

“On a Q-tip box it specifically says they aren’t meant to be used in ears,” she says. “Q-tips can cause many serious health issues, and even the cotton part of the Q-tip can fall off and get stuck in your ear.”

If you feel you need to clean your ears:

If your ears are plugged or you feel you need to clean them, Dr. Darrat recommends safe options for removing excess wax:

  • Create a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water and insert a few drops into your ears when they feel plugged to loosen up any wax buildup.
  • Use a dampened washcloth after you take a shower to wipe away any wax that is visible in your ear.
  • If you find your ears are still plugged, make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist who can use special tools designed to remove ear wax safely.

Some people have more wax production than others, so if you feel like your ears are clogged up, the best thing to do is talk with your doctor. Dr. Darrat cautions to never put foreign objects into your ears to remove wax. This includes candling, which involves inserting a lit, hollow candle into your ear to suction wax out. This process is ineffective and dangerous, and can lead to serious injury like burns.


For more information on healthy ear care, watch this video. To make an appointment with a physician, call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) or visit henryford.com.

Dr. Ilaaf Darrat is a pediatric otolaryngologist (ENT) who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane in Dearborn, and at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and West Bloomfield.

Categories: FeelWell