Ear wax (cerumen) is an important part of our ears’ natural defense system. It helps protect the ear from infections and keeps the skin of the ear canal healthy. Ear wax will naturally migrate out of the ear canal and can be cleaned at the opening of the ear canal with a washcloth. We do not recommend using Q-tips or anything down inside the ear canal to remove ear wax, as this often causes injury to the canal skin and can actually pack wax deeper into the canal where it will not come out on its own.
Occasionally patients produce large amounts of wax or have skin disorders that make their ear wax dry and difficult to remove. If wax occludes the ear canal you may experience hearing loss or pain in the ear. In these cases, the wax should be removed.
The safest way to remove ear wax is by a physician using a microscope to see into the ear canal. This allows the doctor to use both hands to carefully remove wax with small micro instruments and avoid injury to the skin of the canal or eardrum.
We do not recommend water irrigation of the ear canal to remove wax. Water irrigation is done without good visualization of the canal and can cause injury to the eardrum. Water can also be trapped behind the wax and cause an ear infection.