First and foremost, earwax is natural and necessary – we evolved it for a reason.
Earwax is a natural lubricant that protects the sensitive skin in the ear canal. It also acts as a barrier that stops dirt and foreign objects from reaching the eardrum.
What’s more, earwax is part of the ear’s self-cleaning mechanism. The skin inside the ear canal grows outwards, carrying earwax with it. And because the earwax captures dirt and dead skin, this all naturally comes out of the ear together with the earwax.
Chewing and yawning also help to move the wax outwards along your ear canal.
So how do I clean my ears?
Since earwax is necessary, you shouldn’t clean it too much – you simply don’t need to. However, you can wipe away any visible excess earwax using a wet cloth. But … do not use Q-tips, cotton buds or cotton swabs!
In fact, you shouldn’t stick anything in your ear canal.
Q-tips are definitely a bad idea. They may look soft, but they are made from artificial fibres that can scratch and inflame the sensitive skin inside the ear canal, leaving it open to infections.
If you think you have a blockage in your ear canal or think you are experiencing excessive earwax, then you need to consult a hearing care expert for specialist cleaning.
Earwax can create a blockage
It is possible. Ironically, it is often when people try to clean their ears by sticking things in them that they can push earwax inwards and create a blockage. Pushing earwax too far in can make it go in beyond where the skin grows outwards, so it gets stuck. Over time, wax can become compacted, leading to hearing loss.
In general, our ears produce the amount of earwax they need. However, some people do experience excessive earwax. This can be caused by too much cleaning, where the ear produces more earwax in an effort to re-establish an appropriate amount. It can also be caused by some medical conditions.
In some cases, hearing aids can contribute to the perception that people have more earwax, because they sit in the ear canal and prevent it coming out naturally. Hearing aids are fitted with wax filters for this purpose, which need to be changed regularly.
How should I clean my children’s ears?
The same way you clean your own ears: minimally and without sticking anything into the ear. Some people use cotton swabs are available in shapes that are designed to prevent you putting them too far into the ear canal. However, these are still abrasive, so we don’t recommend these.
We recommend you use a wet cloth to wipe out earwax only from the outer part of the ear.