Why Mom was Right About Cleaning Your Ears
Did your mother ever say to you, “Did you remember to wash your ears?” Many of us heard this question because moms instinctively know that:
- It’s important to keep your ears clean.
- Kids often skip washing their ears.
It’s enough to make a mom crazy. Earwax or cerumen is produced naturally. That’s a good thing: nature’s way of protecting our ears and hearing. But too much of a good thing can be bad. Here’s how to keep your ears clean and your mom happy.
Keep ears dry
Mom might have been right about keeping your ears clean, but she probably didn’t know that earwax is not water-soluble. Even the smallest amount of water in the ear in the presence of too much wax can cause the wax to first swell, then dry and harden leaving you very uncomfortable.
Good ear health starts with keeping the ears not only clean but dry. Earplugs when swimming and shower caps while bathing can keep ears dry if you have chronically moist ears.
If you accidently get water in your ear, tilt the affected ear to the side and gently pull the earlobe in different directions to promote drainage.
Over-the-counter drops contain a mixture of alcohol and glycerin to promote evaporation of water in the ears. Use these sparingly. The alcohol will dry the water, but it will also dry the skin inside your ears.
Keep ears clean
The best way to keep your ears clean is with a damp washcloth. Don’t ever place anything smaller than a Bengal tiger inside your ear. Those cotton swabs are okay for wiping the outer part of the ear and behind the ear, but they should never, ever be placed in your ear. The same rule applies for paperclips, pencils and hairpins. If it is smaller than your elbow it doesn’t belong in your ear.
Earwax is produced from the inner portion of the ear and pushed out. Any attempt to “dig” in your ear just pushes the wax further into the ear. A damp washcloth and your index or pinkie finger are all that is necessary to wipe the outside of the ear and the opening of the ear canal. Pat dry when finished. How easy is that!
See audiologist for wax buildup
If you have excessive earwax or wax that has become hardened and is uncomfortable it is time to see the audiologist for professional removal.
An audiologist can use curettage or irrigation to safely remove earwax deposits without damaging your ears.
If you continue to have problems with earwax, talk to the audiologist about an at-home irrigation system. These are not as strong as the systems used by audiologists and must be used with care, but they might be the solution for you.
Keeping your ears clean and well maintained will help not only to promote good hearing health, but also your overall wellbeing.