You’ve probably been told most of your life that you need to clean your ears. But is this really the case? And if so, how do you properly clean your ears? Is there a right or wrong way to do it?

Ears are self-cleaning

It’s important to understand your ears are self-cleaning. Your ears not only help you to hear and help to keep you balanced, but they also are self-cleaning. All of earwax they produce that you think you have to get rid of actually helps to clean your ears and protect it from foreign bodies and debris. Earwax is made deep in the canal and then carries the debris and dirt out of the ear through the body’s natural motions of chewing and talking.

Cleaning methods to avoid

Because your ears are self-cleaning, there is very little you actually need to do to keep them healthy. This means putting down the cotton swab, risky at-home remedy or ear candle. Cotton swabs are actually not designed to be used inside your ear canal, as they can scratch and irritate the tissues, or, even worse, can perforate an eardrum. Additionally, cotton swabs are more likely to push any earwax deeper into your canal than actually remove it, which means possible impaction or infection. Ear candling is a dangerous remedy for pulling wax out of the ear that hasn’t been proven to work and could lead to wax burns. Before trying any home remedy it’s ideal to discuss the process with your audiologist.

Properly cleaning your ears

Cleaning your ears doesn’t need to be a complex process. As long as you’re not experiencing any symptoms of an earwax impaction, little effort is needed to keep your ears healthy. When getting out of the shower or bath, use a dry or slightly damp cloth and wipe the outside part of your ear. You can gently dab the opening of your ear canal with the towel, but be sure not to actually insert your finger into the canal. Inserting anything into your canal is likely to impact more wax.

If you experience frequent issues with earwax or notice sudden hearing loss, pain or itching, schedule an appointment to have your ears evaluated by an audiologist. The audiologist will be able to remove any impaction if one is present, while also recommending any further steps you can take to prevent problems in the future.