Self-cleaning Ears

Self-cleaning Ears

Tuesday, April 5, 2022


100% of physicians recommend not using cotton swabs to clean ears; 100% of people use cotton swabs to clean their ears  


Ears are self-cleaning. Say what? It’s true. Our ear canals are self-cleaning. As the skin of the ear canal sheds, the wax is carried to the outer part of the ear canal and drains from the ear. By itself.  


Normally, earwax is a self-draining liquid that does not cause problems. Earwax helps filter dust, keeps the ears clean and protects the ear canal from infection. Skin, sweat, hair and debris, such as dirt and shampoo, are held together with a fluid secreted by glands (ceruminous glands) inside the ear canal and form earwax (cerumen).  


Everyone makes earwax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair color or height. Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the wax to get out of the canal. This can lead to wax impactions.  


The outer half of the ear canal produces the earwax, so unless it’s pushed in, it will not become deeply impacted. Attempts to clean the ear with cotton swabs, a finger or, well, anything smaller than your elbow, pushes ear wax deeper. The ear canal can become blocked (impacted) by pressing the wax against the eardrum.  


Impacted earwax can cause some hearing loss or other problems, like ringing in the ears (tinnitus) a full feeling in the ears, or vertigo – a sense of motion or dizziness when you aren’t moving. If you have pain in your ear, call your physician. 


If it feels like you have an excess of earwax but you’re not in pain, there are home remedies that don’t involve a cotton swab or an elbow: 

  • Buy an over-the-counter earwax removal kit. 

  • Make your own removal solution. Soften and loosen the earwax with warm mineral oil or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide mixed with an equal amount of room-temperature water, Place two drops of the fluid, warmed to body temperature, in the ear twice a day for up to five days. Be sure to warm the fluid because cold fluid can cause pain and dizziness.  



Genesis HealthCare System’s Health and Wellness content conveniently provides accurate and helpful information. Your health history and current health may impact suggestions provided through our Health and Wellness content. Although we hope this information is helpful, it is not a substitute for your doctor's medical advice. Before making any significant changes, please consult your doctor.