Information about cleaning your ears safely
When cleaning your ears it is vital to take proper case so as to avoid possible damage – as the ears can be a particularly sensitive area of the body. You should treat the different parts of your ears differently when it comes to cleaning them, as cleaning each part can carry different risks.
When it comes to the outer part of the ear, normal washing will do. This region can sometimes be a site of oily build-up, as the hair produces an oily, wax-like substance that can accumulate on the back of the ear. Use your normal cleaning habits (wiping with a wash cloth) to clean this part of the ear.
The folds of the inner part of the ear (still not inside the ear) can be cleaned with a wash cloth. To clean this part of the ear, run the swab along the folds of the cartilage, switching to a fresh side of the washer as needed.
The inner part of the ear is the most susceptible to damage when cleaning it. The ear naturally produces wax to protect the inner ear from foreign substances, like dirt and bacteria. This is the body’s way of protecting nerves in that area, along with the mechanisms for moderating ear pressure. When materials or object are pushed into the ear, these areas can easily be damaged.
Ear wax is a normal, healthy substance which helps to protect our ears from infection. It usually breaks down naturally and falls out of the ears in tiny flakes.
If you wear a hearing aid, or have a narrow or curving ear canal, the wax may build up in your ear, causing discomfort, a sensation of fullness, some loss of hearing or whistling from your hearing aid. Deal with this straight away: wax comes out more easily if it has not had time to go hard. Never try to dig it out with a cotton bud or any other object. You may injure your ear, and you are likely to just push the wax further down the ear canal. There are several things you can do to clear the wax.
The simplest type of eardrop is ordinary olive oil. This gently softens the wax, which may move out of your ear naturally. Use a dropper to apply the oil more easily. Warm the oil up to NO MORE than body temperature and lie down on one side. Fill your ear with oil and stay in that position for 5-10 minutes. Do not put any cotton wool in your ear, as this will absorb the oil and stop it from working into the wax. After 5-10 minutes, sit up, holding a tissue to your ear to catch the oil as it runs out of your ear. Then, if necessary, do the same thing in the other ear. Olive oil is unlikely to cause any irritation to your ear, but it may take a long time to have an effect on the wax. You will need to repeat this treatment daily for up to two weeks.
You can also buy special ear drops from a chemist. Read the instructions, as some drops are stronger than others and should only be used for very short periods.
Eardrops (including olive oil) may at first make your ears more blocked up, as the wax softens and expands. However it needs to go through this phase so that it can come out of your ear.
If your ears cannot be cleaned by your local doctor for a medical reason, your GP may refer you to the local Ear Nose and Throat hospital department for microsuction. This means that the wax is sucked out of your ear with an instrument like a tiny hoover.
It is important that you avoid using swabs in the inner part of the ear. If serious symptoms arise, home cleaning may be ineffective, so you should consult an ear specialist.