Medically known as cerumen, earwax is a sticky substance produced by the glands in our ear canal. Although mostly made up of dead skin cells, earwax also consists of soluble water secretions such as alcohols, cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, antibacterial enzymes, and lysozyme. While you may have never given a second thought to earwax, it’s one of your body’s most important and creative protective mechanisms.
Earwax is constantly released to prevent dirt from entering the inner parts of the ear. It also prevents the growth of bacteria and protects the skin on your auditory canal from being irritated by water. Additionally, earwax cleans and lubricates the inner lining of the ear. So, without earwax, your ear can easily become dirt infested, infected, waterlogged, dry, and sore.
The ear has an excellent system in place that helps to prevent a buildup of wax. It does this by eliminating old secretions and thus creating room for newly produced wax. Old earwax automatically moves out of the ear canal and makes its way to the opening of your ear. Once it reaches the ear opening, normal jaw movements such as talking, yawning, and chewing will help this wax to fall off naturally. Any leftover excess wax that doesn’t fall off is washed away when you have a bath.
If left untreated, the symptoms of wax blockage can worsen and lead to possible irreversible damage. This is the reason why you should get rid of the excess wax the minute you experience any of the mentioned symptoms. Fortunately, there are also several home remedies you can use to soften and remove excess cerumen without causing further damage. Some of the best natural remedies are listed below.
Inexpensive and easy to get ahold of, salt water is one of the best earwax removal solutions that you can use at home. Salted water softens accumulated wax, making it easy for you to remove it without pushing it deeper into the ear.
To make use of this home remedy:
- Prepare a mixture of ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup of warm water.
- When all of the salt has completely dissolved, tilt the affected ear upward and place 2 to 3 drops of the saline water.
- You can use a dropper to apply the solution or soak a cotton ball in the water and squeeze a few drops into the ear.
- Keep your head tilted for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the salty water to soften the earwax.
- Next, tilt your head in the opposite direction and allow the saline solution to drain out.
- Finally, use a clean, dry cloth or cotton swab to clean your ear and remove the softened wax.
A water-based solution that contains baking soda makes a great alternative to the saline solution. Much like salty water, a baking soda/water solution softens the accumulated wax inside your ears, making it easy for you to get rid of it.
Here’s how to use baking soda to get rid of earwax:
- Combine 2 teaspoons of water and ¼ teaspoon baking soda in a cup. This mixture will be enough since you’ll only need to apply a few drops of the solution into your ear.
- Once the solution is ready, tilt your head to one side and pour in the solution using a dropper or cotton ball.
- Maintain the tilted position of the head for at least 10 minutes before gently adding warm water to the ear.
- Drain out the baking soda/water solution and softened cerumen by tilting your head in the opposite direction.
- Finally, clean out the wax using a soft cloth.
Another effective home remedy to deal with wax blockage is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide features an effervescent property that enables it to liquefy hardened wax, making it easy for you to clear it out. Hydrogen peroxide, however, can be harmful when applied to an ear that has had surgery in the past or one with a hole in the eardrum. So, avoid using this home remedy if you fall under any of these 2 categories. In addition, a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide can be harmful to the ear. Therefore, make sure that the hydrogen peroxide you use is not above 3.5%.
While most pharmaceutical grade peroxide bottles you can find at a drugstore will not go beyond 3% concentration, always check the label to be on the safe side.
A mixture of equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol is the best way to go if you’re looking for an easy and mess-free way of treating a wax-clogged ear. Unlike other home remedies that soften the wax, a mixture of alcohol and vinegar dissolves the cerumen. As a result, the earwax simply flows out of the ear with the solution after you’ve allowed a few drops to settle in the affected ear for several minutes.
In addition, a vinegar and alcohol solution throws in the extra benefit of fighting fungi and bacteria and therefore ensures that your ear will not become infected while you’re removing excessive earwax.
Oil options such as olive, almond, baby, and mineral oil are great at removing hardened wax. These oils facilitate the removal of wax in a simple yet effective way that doesn’t require you to prepare solutions.
To get rid of ear wax with oil:
- Add the oil of your choice directly into the affected ear by inserting a cotton ball into the ear opening to prevent the oil from flowing out before softening the hardened cerumen.
- Next, allow the oil to settle for several minutes before removing the cotton ball and tilting your head to drain out the oil.
- When all the oil is out, wash off the oily and waxy residue with soap and before drying your ear gently with a Q-tip.
Do note that Glycerin can be used as an alternative to oil because it works in a similar fashion.
Another simple way of getting rid of wax accumulation is flushing your ear with warm water. To do so:
- Fill a rubber-bulb syringe with warm, filtered water and pour a small amount into your ear.
- Lie down on your side so that your head is propped up slightly. You’re going to pour the warm water into the ear canal until it fills up.
This method is highly effective thanks to the syringe, which helps to add water directly to the hearing canal with a gentle force that dislodges the wax. Due to the force of water and direct delivery to the ear canal, you’ll only have to leave the water in for a few seconds or a minute before removing the water and wax that comes out with a clean cloth.