Earwax is a normal part of the body. Called cerumen, earwax serves as a self-cleaning agent with lubricating, protective and antibacterial properties. When someone does not produce enough earwax, he or she usually suffers from dry, itchy ears.

What is the point of earwax?

While the ear canals, where cerumen resides, are capable of cleaning themselves through a slow migration of earwax and skin cells from the eardrum toward the ear opening, sometimes earwax builds up within the ear canals and requires cleaning. This occurs when jaw motion, like chewing, doesn’t adequately transport old earwax to the outer canal, where the cerumen typically dries, flakes and falls out. 

An ear canal requires cleaning when someone experiences an earache, fullness in the ear or a sensation the ear is plugged, partial or temporary hearing loss, which may be progressive, tinnitus, also known as a ringing or buzzing in the ears, and itching, odor or discharge.

Can you remove excessive earwax?

The first method for cleaning the ears softens the earwax with liquids that are subsequently flushed out. Over-the-counter kits and solutions are available at most drug stores. An individual can also make his or her own solution by combining one to two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide solution, one to two teaspoons of mineral oil and one or two teaspoons of glycerin. These solutions are also available at most major drug stores.

To place the solution in the ears, an individual will need an applicator, such as a syringe. Slowly pouring the solution into the ears can also work, but may be messier than using a syringe.

To insert the solution, tip the head to one side so that the ear in need of cleaning is facing upwards. Pour or drip the solution into the ear, wait five to 10 minutes and then tilt the head back up. The earwax should be softened and will likely drip out with the solution. It is not uncommon to hear crackling or fizzing noises while the solution is in the ear, especially if an individual is using hydrogen peroxide.

Once the solution has drained from the ear, use a syringe and warm water to flush out the excess wax. For excessive earwax build up, this procedure can be repeated twice a day for up to five days.

When to see a hearing care professional

If earwax is still causing the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to see a hearing healthcare professional. Additionally, if you are experiencing frequent earwax buildup, this could be a sign of another condition, which is why it is important to consult with a hearing care provider in your area!