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How Do I Remove Ear Wax Build Up?

Baby oil can be used to soften earwax.
A bulb syringe should be used to flush the ear after wax has been removed.
It may be necessary to visit a doctor to remove excessive ear wax.
Holding a hot water bottle to the ear can help soften ear wax.
If wax goes deep into the ear canal, a person may need to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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There are several ways to remove ear wax build up at home or in a doctor's office. People who have experienced perforated ear drums and severe ear infections should consult a doctor if they think they have a build up of ear wax, as there are some special concerns about their ears which must be addressed. For these individuals, it is safer to have a doctor remove the wax, as he or she can do so with specialized equipment which will not damage the ear drum.

Before one makes the decision to remove ear wax build up, it is important to think about whether or not the build up of wax should be removed at all. The ears generate lots of wax naturally to clean the ears and protect them from dust and other dangers, and it is normal to have some wax in and around the ear. If the hearing is impaired or a suspected build up is causing pain and irritation, it should be removed. Likewise if ear wax has been pushed into the ear canal because of overzealous use of cotton swabs. But if only a small amount of wax is present, it may be better not to remove ear wax build up.

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At home, the goal is to soften the ear wax so that it can flow out of the ear, and then to flush the ear so that it is clean. Softening can be accomplished by pouring a few drops of a warm, neutral oil such as baby oil into the ear, by holding a hot water bottle to the ear, or by applying a few drops of a solution specifically designed for softening ear wax. It is best to do this with the head lying on a table and an ear pointing up, and to hold this position for several minutes before tilting to allow the wax to flow out. Once the wax has come out, the ear can be flushed with warm salt water, either with the use of an bulb syringe or by pouring water slowly into the ear.

Some people recommend using hydrogen peroxide for ear wax removal. Hydrogen peroxide should not be used alone to remove ear wax build up, as it will not soften the wax. It can be used with softened wax, as the bubbling motion of the hydrogen peroxide will help remove ear wax from the ear.

In a doctor's office, the doctor has an array of tools to choose from to remove ear wax build up. Doctors can use specialized water jets to get wax out of the ear, or scoops which can be gently inserted into the ear to pull out wax. These techniques should not be used at home, as they require special training to avoid damage to the ear.

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Discuss this Article

anon935543
Post 27

I've had tiny ear canals since birth. After going to multiple doctors for many years of my childhood and not being able to hear well, I was finally recommended to an ENT.

Yes he was rough. He used a vacuum which was very loud and when he hit certain spots I'd yell. He also used a thing to pull the wax out and put many different drops in my ears. Many appointments were uncomfortable and I ended up in tears. I've been going to him every three months for the past six years.

What I've learned: It can be painful, but always see an ENT. GP doctors are clueless, recommend useless drops, and sometimes make it worse.

Put vegetable oil in the ear every night after seeing an ENT to maintain the health of your ears and avoid future wax blockage.

Q-tips may bring some instant relief but in the long term, are only pushing wax further in, making for a more uncomfortable visit with the ENT

Never use any kind of flusher such as an air pump thing to flush your ears out at home. Even if your ENT recommends it, which mine did. We aren't trained to use them and can injure our ears! Also, too much pressure can make you feel queasy and dizzy and you may pass out. This happened to me and I was lucky enough a family member was home and encouraged me not to drive for the day!

If your ENT is inconsiderate of your pain, leave and find a new one! My ENT can be rough but he always tells me to tell him if it hurts so he can immediately stop!

I've been going to an ENT for six years but he honestly cares about seeing an improvement in my ears. He used to take about 45 excruciating minutes to clean my ears and now it takes about five minutes per ear. He encourages me to keep coming back because he wants to make sure he stops any blockage from occurring again! Prevention is key.

anon342986
Post 26

Ear candling is dangerous. Do not start ear candling. The risks outweigh the benefits.

See an sar specialist (ENT) to get impacted earwax removed. Some OTC's do work, but only if the wax is not thick and/or impacted.

If a doctor is rough or is insensitive and doesn't care about your pain, go to a different doctor. Never go back, even though it means getting another doctor and possibly traveling a bit further. If they are rude or insensitive or care more about money than you, it means that they are sociopathic, devoid of emotion -- a small percentage of doctors are sociopaths. Be aware, and stay away from them.

anon340360
Post 25

I have used the candles to get the wax out of my ears and it really does help. My ENT refuses to clean them out. Even though he says he can see the wax, he tells me it is too far down for him to get to it. I have had pain and not been able to hear from the blockage and my ENT only wants to do hearing tests, I think he wants to only sell hearing aids so I am checking into seeing a new ENT. The candles have really helped to relieve the wax situation in my ear.

anon311276
Post 24

I had a bad experience with my incompetent GP over ear wax build up.

I first had a gigantic blockage of ear wax in my ear, and I was told to use Waxsol, a wax softening drop which really made no difference to the plug of wax in my ear. I then went to the doctor the next morning and she had a look and said, "I don't know if it's wax or Waxsol, but there's a lot of it!"

She said she would clean them out and pulled out a manual ear syringe. It's the kind of ear syringe where it sucks up water from a separate container when you squeeze a hand lever and all that. It is similar in appearance to those guns used to apply a household waterproofing sealant. She wasn't exactly gentle, and squirted the water in full pelt; however it wasn't painful in the slightest. I was amazed at the amount of wax coming out, and even my mum who accompanied me to the doctor gasped as lumps of wax continued to be pumped out of my ear.

But after a while she said, "Well that's it. That's all I can get out." She didn't even try any more, told me to use more Waxsol and come back in a few days. She showed no real concern for me.

I'm not sure, but sometimes that ear (it was just my left one that was blocked, strangely it's always just my left which is the waxiest!) lapses between being blocked and unblocked. Now, I'm beginning to think that my decision to let my doctor syringe my ears was a bad idea, as everyone is saying you should never let your GP syringe or clean out your ears in any way, that you should always visit a specialist.

I'm really apprehensive about going back to that doctor again, plus I'm not too fond of ear drops. I'll see if I can get to an ENT who will vacuum or scrape out my ear. I hope I get to the bottom of why I have one ear waxier than the other. It is possibly some sort of infection, as I do sometimes experience sharp, stabbing pain in that ear.

anon295609
Post 23

$500 just to clean your ears? Who in their right mind would go to the doctor then?

anon291641
Post 22

When you take a shower, just turn your head so the water goes into your ears and give them a good flushing out.

anon277895
Post 20

I have ear wax right now, I used a q tip yesterday but it went all the way in whenever I swallowed, I felt the ear wax, but my mom put baby oil in my ear and the next morning (today) the ear wax was right at the end of my ear canal. I picked it all out and let the ear drain in the sink and now I can hear.

anon273432
Post 19

I thought I was the only person with such miserable earwax (cerumen). I went to the supposedly "best" ENT (ear/nose/throat) doc coming up on three months ago, for what I thought was a simple earwax removal.

On the first visit, I had asked if he was to use the vacuum to remove the wax, and he outright lied to me and said no, but then he did use it and it was very painful. It did not work, so he flushed my ear with a cold liquid, causing me to become so extremely dizzy I was about to screech. (Please note: I have had many serious and painful procedures/operations through the years and this was about one of the most traumatic events I have ever experienced thus far). I immediately informed him of the vertigo that had lasted for many minutes and all he said to me was "deal with it"! So much for the supposed "best doc'.

He then had the nerve to inform me that in order not to become dizzy, one must irrigate the ear with warm liquid, and when I nicely asked him why he didn't use a warm liquid on my ear, I received no response to my query. Not surprisingly, six weeks later I returned with a raging earache, which I believe was from all of the agony I had been through in order to remove the wax.

I was informed it was "otitis externa" (external ear canal infection) and given antibacterial drops to use for 10 days. Two weeks later I returned and was told that not only did the drops not work, I now had 'pustules' which had to be scraped out. Ouch! The doc also informed me that he thought I might have a tumor in the outer ear canal. All this from earwax removal?

I had, (what I was told, that is) an antibiotic/antifungal powder put into the ear canal. This was the third visit, and I was mighty tired of what seemed to be an easy wax removal visit on the first visit, turning into a medical nightmare. By the fourth visit, I decided to seek a second consult opinion at yet another ENT.

This is scheduled this coming week. I still wonder why there isn't a numbing agent, such as liquid lidocaine, which can be used to prevent such unnecessary discomfort. Lastly, I was informed that earwax is now considered genetic. Can you believe it? If this weren't so serious, it would almost be funny.

anon239922
Post 18

Just a note to help prevent ear wax buildup. I didn't know this either until the other day, but excessive use of ear plugs or headphones will increase ear wax. For those that have to wear plugs for work, it's hard to change, but if you're a heavy xbox player like me, then playing without the headphones may be your answer! Good luck!

anon233308
Post 17

I went to the doctor and when he looked in my ears, they had too much wax, so they cleaned my ears with water at the office. One ear didn't hurt at all, but when they did my left ear it hurt and they couldn't get much of anything out and it hurt too much to keep trying.

Now my left ear still feels funny and hurts. My right ear is fine, though. They want me to come back Monday. I hope it doesn't hurt so much next time if they do this again.

anon164724
Post 16

I've had an irritating buildup for a few days now, and I just applied hot water to my ear canal with my finger and ended up pulling out something unpleasant. I think it had formed around some tiny hard piece of debris that got up there somehow. Feels much better. Just soften that stuff up, get it loose, and ease it out. No need to complicate your life. Just don't get too zealous and damage your ear somehow, I guess.

anon157973
Post 15

I had my ear cleaned last year due to an ear ache. As a child i had several ear infections and was constantly getting swimmers ear. Apparently this followed me into adulthood. Anyway i went to the doctor and had them irrigated with the water sucker thing. It felt amazing. You know how when your cleaning your ears with q tips or you are itching your ear and it feels really good. That's how it felt.

I need it done again, but I would suggest having them go gently. and don't be scared and to those of you who were hurting for days afterwards you should have voiced up. Do not let them do it if it is hurting, because it should not hurt.

anon153671
Post 14

When I was younger I went to the doctor to get my ears flushed since there was too much wax. Well, found I had an ear infection along with the wax and boy did it hurt! I'm so nervous to ever get my ears flushed with water again, but my ears get so much wax build up. Argh. I feel like I have another ear infection.

anon139858
Post 13

It didn't hurt a bit when I got it done. She didn't use a pump though.

She used a normal type of thing that shoots the warm water in and sucks it out along with the wax.

My ear was tempting to be scratched. She said to put a really cold wash cloth to it, and hold it.

She said never to clean my ears with a thin wash cloth. And if I did use a swab, don't go completely in. Clean around it, and I should be able to see part of the cotton as I clean it.

anon139333
Post 12

I went to the doctor for a checkup and he said, "uh your ears are a little waxy, you want me to get that out for ya?" So I said yeah, ok. The nurse came in and flushed it, and it did sound like a tidal wave and made me dizzy.

Later, I got a $500 bill for that. I thought they were just offering as a courtesy. I was so pissed.

anon135456
Post 11

I've had ear stuffiness for three weeks now. I went to the doctor, who recommended Debrox. I had hardened earwax he was afraid to flush with water because he said it would cause pain. I used baby oil to soften, then derbrox. It took a couple of weeks, but I'm finally starting to hear.

anon134229
Post 10

I accidentally pushed my earwax way into my ear canal while cleaning with a q-tip yesterday and tried to get it loose with an ear syringe and hydrogen peroxide to no avail.

It got so bad I couldn't even hear out of my right ear and there was some slight pressure (pain) as well. So I decided to go to the med clinic. After the dr. looked my ears over he brought in two nurses. One of them had this weird looking bottle with a short hose and a pump. She stuck it in my ear and started pumping that thing really vigorously for about minutes straight. It wasn't real painful at first but it did get a little uncomfortable after about a minute. It was also kind of loud and sounded like a tidal wave was inside my ear. I thought for sure my ear would be ringing when she was done but luckily it didn't.

She then stopped and handed it to the other nurse who was in training and told her to finish me up. She pumped the device a lot slower and more gently than the other lady did and I appreciated that because my ear was sore enough as it was.

Anyway, the wax came out and i could now hear again, so overall I'm glad I went in and had it done but I do think that the first nurse could've been a lot gentler because my ear hurt for several hours afterward. I don't know if it was just from having my ear plugged up all day or from the aggressive water treatment that I got but if your ear is sore and you go in to get it fixed, make sure to tell them to be gentle. Remember, it's your body.

anon131803
Post 9

I remember a few years ago I was having bad headaches. I went to my doctor and he suggested cleaning my ears. He used a small syringe I believe and cleaned my ears with warm water, it was painless as he very gentle.

Now a few years later, I'm having trouble with clogged ears again and they ringing bad. I've made an appointment with him again and hoping he can clean them again.

anon124578
Post 8

Thank you! Does it hurt at all when the doctor removes it with water? It sounds pretty painful to me, but I don't know for sure, as I've never had it done. Thanks again!

anon119841
Post 7

I get severe wax buildup. If I catch the buildup early enough, debrox (wax softener) works fine after about three or four days of using it twice a day. It will still crackle after you flush you ear out for a little while.

You should never use Q-tips as they only push the wax further in your ear canal.

If the wax buildup is too much for debrox, I go to a clinic that uses a tiny vacuum to pull out the wax. This always worksm no matter what. It is slightly uncomfortable and sounds like a jet engine is in your ear but does no damage to the eat and gets the canal completely clean.

If you are at your wit's end with the eat wax problem, I recommend finding some place that uses the vacuum. The water pics can damage your eardrum and the scoops that some doctors use are very painful and have never worked for me.

Hope this helps someone because I know how irritating the problem can be, especially when it comes to most doctors' absolute ignorance and idiocy about the issue.

anon112323
Post 6

I went to the doctor at about 2;30 in the morning with a horrible ear infection and they had to rinse my ear out by the streaming water way and it hurt so much!

I do not recommend that way at all.

anon111096
Post 5

i had my doctor's office clean my ears today with the stream of water and i wasn't too happy. it crackled and hurt as the water flowed in and i believe i started to get dizzy so i said stop, I can't go any further! There was constant pressure.

if this does get better with pain, how long do you think it will take? I can't even lay down or can't stop wanting to massage it a lot. Never again will i do that!

i believe the lady behind the bottle might have pumped too many times at once, and boy did it hurt.

Snoopy123
Post 4

anon96017- Thank you for sharing your experience in the doctor’s office. I’m going to my doctor’s to have it done first, then when I need it again I’ll look into at home kits. So that way I can tell if the kit was worth it and they’re cleaned well. Good luck.

anon96017
Post 3

I had a doctor clean mine once (and it's once again clogged now, a few years later). The doctor's office was very easy and painless. They just shot streams of warm water into the ear canal to break the wax loose. It didn't hurt at all, and was actually very refreshing once it was cleaned out.

The only reason I'm looking for "home remedies" now is to avoid having to waste time going to a doctor's office.

I have no qualms about going again if that's what I need to do, as it was a completely painless and stress-free experience.

Snoopy123
Post 2

yntern’

I am so afraid to get my ears cleaned at my doctor’s office. My ears are so sensitive and I’ve heard horror stories about how much it hurts with the water jets. I couldn’t try one of those kits at the store; I would be so afraid of doing it wrong and getting an earache. I get excessive wax build up that itches even though I clean my ears with Q-tips frequently. They just don’t seem to be helping enough. I try not to go too deep, but it’s so irritating. When I was little I had tubes in my ears, so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. I have had this problem for years and want professional help, plus I don’t want any permanent damage. So I have some questions, if you can please help me. What your doctor uses to clean your ears? Does it hurt during and after the procedure? How long does it take to get them done? Thank you

yntern
Post 1

I've used those over the counter ear wax removal kits, with the solution that crackles in the ear. Even after using the bulb syringe to flush it all out, it seems like I can still hear the crackling. Now I just do to the doctor if ear wax is bothering me.

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