Earwax: Friend or Foe?

Earwax. Ew, right? Probably not anyone’s favorite topic of conversation. But you may be surprised that earwax is an integral part of the ear that should be celebrated!

Earwax, in normal amounts, is healthy — and very important. With antibacterial, protective, and lubricating properties, earwax coats the skin of the ear canal and repels water, dirt, bacteria, and other debris so it doesn’t reach the eardrum. It’s even a natural insect repellent! Without it, you could experience infections and injuries, and your ears would be very dry and itchy. So as you can see, earwax is most definitely a friend!

Earwax and hearing aids

Made in the outer third of the ear canal, earwax eventually dries, flakes and falls out as part of your ear’s really cool self-cleaning capabilities. And most of the time, you don’t even notice it. But when you wear hearing aids, this process may not work as well and earwax may be more noticeable. Here’s why. 

  • Hearing aids can physically block the ear’s natural airing and self-cleaning abilities; the wax isn’t able to move and fall out as easily, as mentioned above. 
  • Hearing aids can also sometimes push earwax further down into your ear, which could also cause a blockage of the ear canal, discomfort, or feedback. 
  • If it builds up too much, earwax will interfere with the components of your hearing aids. Microphones and receivers can get clogged, which can impact the performance of the device. So if it doesn’t seem to be working properly, check for earwax buildup first. 

Cleaning your ears and hearing aids

So, while earwax may seem more like a foe when you’re wearing hearing aids, it’s there to do an important job. Here are some simple do’s and don’ts to help you manage it to where it becomes second nature.

DO…

  • Use a simple washcloth to clean the external part of your ears (and dry them well) before you put on your hearing aids every day.
  • Gently wipe off all parts of your hearing aids with a soft cloth every evening after you take them off.
  • Ensure the optimal performance of your hearing aids by checking often for earwax buildup. 
  • Have your ears and hearing aids cleaned 2-3 times a year by a professional to ensure the best performance of your ears and your hearing aids. They can safely remove wax buildup with special tools.

DON’T…

  • Ever stick anything into your ears to clean them. No Q-tips, pencils, folded napkin corners — nothing. Doing so may push earwax further down into your ear canal, which may cause a blockage and infection, and affect your hearing and hearing aids. 
  • Put your hearing aids in if your ears are damp or wet.
  • Delay going to the doctor if you’re having pain, ongoing itching, odor, drainage, or worsening of your hearing or performance of your hearing aids.

IF…

If you have problems with buildup or experience performance issues with your hearing aids:

  • Remove and change the earwax guards and filters.
  • Use the cleaning kit and tools that came with your hearing aids.
    • Clean around the sound outlet by twisting the brush to clear away any wax
    • Clear the ventilation opening by inserting and twisting the brush
    • Brush off microphone openings
    • Replace the brush with a new one if needed

If you experience discomfort, irritation, or wax buildup in your ears:

  • From time to time, consider putting a small amount of mineral oil or another over-the-counter ear lubricant on a cotton ball and inserting it into your ear overnight for a few nights while you sleep. This can help soften up the earwax. 
  • Try an over-the-counter earwax removal kit to help soften and break up earwax in your ear.
  • If your symptoms don’t improve after a few days, see your doctor to rule out infection or major blockage. 

Always remember, clean ears and clean hearing aids will help to ensure your devices keep functioning at optimal levels. Questions? Give us a call at 888-780-3450, we’re always here to help!

Lauri Tucker

Growing up with an aunt who’s worn hearing aids for 40 years, and a nephew who’s deaf in one ear, Lauri wanted to support and inspire others with hearing loss. She’s the senior copywriter at hear.com.

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