Safely Removing Ear Wax: Expert Advice from an ENT Doctor

ear wax in ear canal

Ear wax is a natural substance produced by our bodies to protect and lubricate the ear canal. While it plays an important role in maintaining ear health, excessive wax build-up can lead to discomfort, hearing problems, and other complications. As an ENT doctor, I understand the significance of safe ear wax removal techniques to prevent potential harm. In this blog, I will share my insights and recommendations for effectively and safely managing ear wax.

Understanding Ear Wax:

Before diving into the removal techniques, it’s crucial to understand what ear wax is and its functions. Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance produced by the glands in the ear canal. It serves several important functions in the ear:

  • Lubrication: Ear wax acts as a natural lubricant, keeping the ear canal moisturized and preventing dryness and itching.
  • Protection: One of the primary roles of ear wax is to protect the delicate structures of the ear, including the eardrum. It forms a protective barrier that helps prevent foreign objects, such as dust, debris, and insects, from entering the ear canal and potentially causing damage or infection.
  • Cleansing: Ear wax has self-cleansing properties. As it is produced, it gradually moves from the deeper parts of the ear canal towards the outer part. During this process, it carries away trapped dirt, dead skin cells, and other particles, effectively cleaning the ear canal.
  • Antibacterial and antifungal properties: Ear wax contains antibacterial and antifungal properties that help prevent infections in the ear canal. It creates an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of harmful microorganisms.

It’s important to note that ear wax is a normal and necessary substance for maintaining ear health. However, excessive accumulation or impacted ear wax can lead to various symptoms and may require safe removal techniques.

Signs of Excessive Ear Wax:

Recognizing the signs of excessive ear wax can help you identify when it’s time for removal. Here are some signs that wax accumulation may be an issue:

  • blocked or plugged ears
  • ear pain or discomfort
  • changes in hearing
  • itching or irritation in the ear canal

Safe Ear Wax Removal Techniques:

Softening the Wax:

To facilitate the removal process, it is advisable to soften the wax first. Over-the-counter ear drops specifically formulated for wax removal can be used. Alternatively, you can try natural remedies like warmed olive oil or diluted hydrogen peroxide. These substances help break down the wax and make it easier to remove. However be sure to test the temperature before using warmed oil or water to avoid potential burns.


Ear irrigation is a widely used technique for ear wax removal. It involves gently flushing warm water into the ear canal to dislodge and flush out the softened wax. It is crucial to perform ear irrigation correctly and with caution. Using a bulb syringe or an ear irrigation kit, follow the instructions carefully to avoid any damage to the ear.

Ear Wax Removal Kits:

Various ear wax removal kits are available in the market, typically consisting of specialized tools designed for safe and effective wax removal. These tools may include ear picks, spoons, or loops. When using such kits, it is essential to exercise caution and follow the instructions provided to avoid injury.

Seeking Professional Help:

In certain cases, it is advisable to seek professional help from an audiologist or an ENT specialist. They possess the expertise and tools necessary for more complex or stubborn wax removal. They may use techniques such as suction, specialized instruments, or microscopic examination to ensure safe and thorough removal.

Preventing Excessive Ear Wax Build-up:

Prevention is always better than cure, and the same applies to ear wax accumulation. Adopting good ear hygiene practices can help minimize the chances of excessive wax build-up. Regularly cleaning the outer ear with a washcloth, avoiding the use of cotton swabs or sharp objects that may push the wax further into the ear canal, and scheduling periodic check-ups for professional cleanings can all contribute to maintaining optimal ear health.

In Conclusion:

As an ENT doctor, I strongly emphasize the importance of safe ear wax removal techniques. By understanding ear wax, recognizing the signs of excessive build-up, and implementing the proper removal methods, you can effectively manage ear wax and prevent potential complications. However, it is essential to exercise caution, seek professional assistance when needed, and prioritize regular ear care practices to ensure long-term ear health. Remember, your ears deserve the best care possible!

Lee A. Kleiman a doctor at Anne Arundel ENT

Dr. Lee A. Kleiman is a double board certified ENT & plastic surgeon at Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, Maryland known for his superior clinical outcomes in all Surgical and Non-Surgical ENT, specializing in Sinus Care, Voice and Swallowing, Rhinoplasty and Revision Rhinoplasty, and Facelifts and Non-surgical Aesthetic. He also continues to attend conferences internationally and nationally to keep abreast of the latest treatments and technology.