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How do I clean ears properly?
All mammals produce earwax throughout their life. We humans often find this very useful and important secretion annoying and often resort to drastic measures to rid our ears of it.
We’ll tell you here why excessive ear hygiene tends to be harmful – and how you can clean your ears in a healthy way.
Table of Contents
- What is ear wax?
- What to do if there is too much ear wax?
- Cotton swabs
- Gently clearing the ear with ear candles
- Going up till the ear canal
- Interesting facts about ear wax
What is ear wax?
Ear wax (cerumen) is used for protection and – many may hardly believe it – self-cleaning of the ears! Ear wax is therefore an important and useful body secretion. Due to its sticky consistency, it catches dirt, dead skin, and hair, and then transports them to the outside with the help of the cilia. The secretion also has nourishing properties. This keeps the inner ear wonderfully supple, which is an important prerequisite for the natural cleaning function. Ear wax also serves as a kind of “protective shield” because it has an antibacterial effect and protects against fungal infections.
What to do if there is too much wax?
If the body produces an excessive amount of ear wax or if its natural exit has been disturbed by manual manipulation, a plug can form in the ear canal. Removing this is a natural impulse. But be careful: objects such as staples or crochet hooks have no place in the ear canal!
They are by no means suitable for cleaning ears because they can irritate the eardrum. Overall, the ear canal is an extremely sensitive structure – and permanent damage to the ear cannot be ruled out with such a crude cleaning method.
Cotton swabs are only suitable to a limited extent
Many use cotton swabs to clean ears. However, most of them are not aware that these are only partially suitable for removing wax from the ears. Cotton swabs are better padded, but they must not be inserted into the ear canal either: They usually push the wax that is actually on the way out deep into the ear canal. This promotes the formation of plugs and painful inflammation of the ear can result.
Gently clean ears with ear candles
Others see ear candles as an alternative to cotton swabs. Ear candles are long, thin and funnel-shaped and promise to clean the ears by generating negative pressure. This is supposed to suck the wax outwards. Even if this method works initially because you don’t poke around in your ear, it is only suitable to a limited extent. Burns on the face and auricle cannot be ruled out here. It happens again and again that the hot wax penetrates the ear canal and damages the eardrum there. But how do you clean your ears properly?
Ear canal is the limit!
For regular cleaning, it is sufficient to remove the wax on the auricle with a damp cloth or a cotton swab. Lukewarm water helps to soften the secretion. Home remedies, such as heated olive or almond oil, but also special ear drops and sprays can help drain wax from the ear canal.
If your ear has already produced an excessive amount of wax, we recommend going to the ENT doctor. Should ear wax come into contact with water, it swells up. So there is a risk that an already emerging plug will only really get stuck in the ear canal. You will usually notice such a plug through an itching in the ear, perhaps also through an earache – combined with a slight hearing loss.
At the ENT doctor, you can be sure that your ear will be cleaned gently and professionally. If your ears tend to produce more secretion than usual, you should see a specialist every three months. Proper cleaning of the ears also includes the area behind the ear. Lukewarm water is sufficient for this. Then dry the area well to avoid the risk of an ear infection.
Ear wax is a very useful secretion that is essential for hygiene and keeping the ears healthy. With the right care, you can help your ears clean themselves and thus your health too.
Interesting facts about ear wax
- Europeans have relatively moist ear wax due to higher fat content of around 50%. In Asians, the fat content is only 20% and leads to a rather crumbly consistency.
- Have you ever wondered why ear wax tastes so bitter? It is believed that this serves to protect against insects nestling in the ear canal.
- By the way, children not only produce significantly more but also softer ear wax than adults. In addition, the colours can vary greatly. From light brown, dark brown to orange, everything is possible
- Men and the elderly produce more wax on average. Occasionally, the cause of hearing loss is a blocked ear canal. Professional ear cleaning at the ENT doctor often leads to a noticeable improvement.