Saturday, February 24, 2024

Ask your audiologist...

by AudiologistTia Flynn
| December 15, 2010 8:00 PM

As I have gotten older I find that I have to have ear wax removed about once a year now. What can I do myself that would help to keep the wax from building up on me?

This is a common complaint with my 65-plus patient population. As we age the hairs in our ear canal don't move the wax out of the ear canal as well as they used to. Sometimes the wax clings to the ear hair and collects and builds until there is a blockage of wax. An impaction of wax can cause a mild to moderate hearing loss all by itself.

Cerumen is the medical term used for what we call ear wax. Some people are wax builders and no matter what they do to try to combat the wax they tend to have to have their wax impactions professionally cleaned out as soon as they notice they are not hearing well.

After ears are cleaned out I recommend letting shower or bath water run in and out of the ears and then using a cotton swab or Q-tip to clean the outside of the ear and the very opening of the ear canal (never insert or plunge the cotton swab down into the canal this can push wax further in or you could possibly rupture your ear drum).

Here are some home remedies that can be helpful for softening ear wax so that it can migrate out of the ear canal or make it easier for a physician or audiologist to remove it. Over the counter ear wax drops and bulb syringe purchased at the drug store or your audiologists office. Follow the instructions provided. When using the bulb syringe to irrigate the ear with water squeeze the syringe very gently. One would not want to blast water into the ear possibly rupturing an ear drum. Olive oil or mineral oil dropped into the ears before bed for a few nights (cover your pillow with a towel). Use either an eye dropper or saturate a cotton ball and squeeze drops of oil into the ear canal. It is easier if you have someone else do this for you. If home remedies are not working for you it may need to be removed by a professional.

Some common methods of wax removal by a professional include but are not limited to: 1. The use of a curet and otoscope where the wax is grabbed by a dull instrument and pulled or gently scraped out. 2. An irrigation method of warm water piped into the ear which breaks up the wax and washes it out. 3. Suction machine that works like a tiny vacuum and sucks the wax out of the ear.

Many people tell me that their mothers taught them to remove wax from their own ears with objects like toothpicks, matchsticks, hair pins, pens and pencils. This is very dangerous and unsanitary. The ear canal is a warm moist place which is a wonderful breeding ground for infection. If you poke dirty objects into your ear you are risking that you may break the skin and cause the ear to bleed or become infected or even worse rupturing an ear drum.

How do you know if you have too much wax? Well you can't look into your own ear so I advise that you make sure your ears get looked into every time you go to see your physician. If you haven't been to a physician in over a year and you are concerned about wax build-up our office provides ear wax removal for seniors every Tuesday morning from 9am to Noon for a fee of $10.

Dr. Tia Flynn is a certified audiologist and has been in business for over 10 years. Every Tuesday morning from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Dr. Flynn provides free hearing screenings at 1601 3rd St. in Coeur d'Alene. (208) 664-2767. Visit for a free copy of the consumers guide to hearing aids and watch helpful videos.