The body in its entirety is self-cleaning. It means even the most internal or hidden of organs have a way of removing foreign bodies. Take the ears for example. They produce wax that traps dust and any other unknown object going into the ear.
All that is left to clean out is the dirty wax. People use different methods and items to clean their ears. Such practices are perpetuated more by the industry producing the products. It begs the question; are all the ear cleaning methods safe?
How to safely clean the ears
The safest way is the general cleaning of the outer ear with a cloth during daily showers. For people who cannot fold a towel on their index finger to clean the outer ear, they can use cotton swabs. Most people fall into the trap of going deeper into the ear because of the good feeling. It cannot be stressed enough. Resist the urge and stick to the outer ear.
Some situations call for more active cleaning methods. These include:
- Production of excess wax
- Tough and dry wax common in old people
Here are ways of cleaning in these situations if there are no major ear problems. In case there are serious issues visit specialists such as those in Audiology Island.
For hard wax
- Use two drops of warm baby oil 2 to 3 times a day in the ear. Follow it up by rinsing the outer ear with warm water.
- Use hydrogen peroxide to soften the hard wax. Add equal parts of water to the hydrogen peroxide. While lying on one side, add drops of the mixture to the upper ear and leave for 20 minutes. There will be a bubbling sound from the breaking of the wax. After, cover the ear with a towel and lean on that side to drain the solution.
How not to clean your ears
The market offers several products to thoroughly clean the ear. All these methods are not necessary since the ear is self-cleaning. Secondly, the methods are very invasive to the inner ear which is very sensitive.
Cotton ear buds
The cotton swabs are the most prevalent ear cleaning products in the market. They are plastic rods with attached cotton swabs on both ends. People trust them so much to the extent of using them on the babies. It is understandable why mothers seem to have complete trust in them. Every baby hamper always has the ear swabs among the baby oils and lotions. The truth is they tend to cause more harm than good.
Why is that?
Cerumen is the medical term for the wax produced by the ears. The ear has two major parts; the inner ear and the outer ear. Most of the wax is produced in the outer ear. It is sticky to trap any unknown particles and has antimicrobial properties to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.
All these ear adaptations are developed in the outer ear to prevent any damage to the inner ear where all the vital parts are. Don’t get it wrong, all parts of the ears are important but the inner ear has parts such as the semicircular canals which are important in giving the body balance.
When the particles are trapped, the wax dries and will drop or wash off during the usual shower. Any excess wax also goes through the same process to allow production of new wax. If using ear buds, there is a risk of pushing the dirty wax into the inner ear. It may result in infections from the contaminated wax or temporary hearing loss from blocking the passages.
The method involves creating a vacuum using candle wax to suction out wax from the ears. The method is dangerous as it removes all the wax leaving the ear with no cleaning mechanisms. The use of hot wax from a lit candle can cause severe burns to the ears. Other ear wax vacuums in the market are a hoax and have no effect.
Several systems use the irrigation method. The process involves introducing liquids at high pressure into the ear to wash off the wax and dirt. Some of the liquids used may cause significant problems if they remain in the inner ear.
It is advisable not to put sharp or small objects in the ear. Avoid very high sounds and always visit the doctor in case of pain or discharge from the ear.
About Dr Stella Fulman
Dr. Stella Fulman, AU.D., CCC-A received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Audiology from Brooklyn College in 2004 and her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in 2008. [ Learn More ]