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There is an old saying that suggests putting nothing in your ears smaller than your elbow. In other words, no one should use anything mechanical to remove ear wax or any other obstruction from the deepest part of the ear canal. Even the manufacturers of cotton swabs emphasize the danger of using their products to remove ear wax deposits. There are times when one needs to remove ear wax safely, however, especially when it affects one's hearing or may lead to an infection.
To remove ear wax safely, some suggest using warmed oils such as baby oil, mineral oil or olive oil to soften the ear wax. A few drops of warmed, but not hot, oil should be placed carefully in the ear canal as the patient lies on his or her side. The oil should be allowed to remain in the ear canal for a few seconds to literally melt the ear wax. To remove ear wax after the oil has been applied, the patient should lean his or head to one side and allow the oil to flow out naturally into a clean cloth. A supply of clean water can then be squirted into the ear to remove ear wax deposits that may remain.
Another way to remove ear wax safely is to use ear drops specifically formulated to soften excessive wax. These ear drops are usually sold in the pharmacy section of a department or grocery store, along with other ear care products for swimmer's ear and general earaches. Apply these ear drops according to the directions on the box. In general, a solution is dropped into the ear canal to soften and liquefy excess ear wax. After a few minutes, the solution is allowed to drain out of the ear naturally. Some products that remove ear wax may include a rubberized bulb for flushing out residue.
Some experts suggest that the safest way to remove ear wax is not to remove it at all. The body produces ear wax for a reason - to trap outside dirt and other contaminants before they can reach the vulnerable workings of the inner ear. While some may find this waxy substance unappealing, it is not always wise to remove ear wax strictly for aesthetics. Using a cotton swab to remove ear wax in the ear canal can lead to compaction of the wax or puncture of the ear drum.
Conventional thinking nowadays is to remove ear wax only when it becomes excessive or compromises hearing. Discolored or excessive ear wax may be a sign of a larger problem, so you may need to plan a visit to your personal physician for a more thorough exam. Meanwhile, avoid using anything mechanical to remove ear wax, such as a paper clip, cotton swab or car key. A deep itch in the ear canal can often be relieved by plugging your nose and blowing air through the Eustachian tubes. Excessive ear wax buildup can become a serious problem, so seek medical attention if these home remedies do not bring relief.