The ears actually clean themselves on their own. But sometimes you have the feeling that you want to help a little and remove earwax. Then you shouldn’t use the cotton swab, but rather rinse your ears. We explain how it works and what to watch out for.
Cleaning ears: what is ear wax good for?
Ear wax, also known technically as cerumen, is formed by the ceruminous glands. These are located deep in the ear canal and produce a secretion of fats, cholesterol, and cholesteryl esters. The resulting cerumen cleans, protects, and cares for or moisturizes the ear canal.
The ear wax transports hair, dead skin cells, and dust from the ear canal towards the auricle. From there, the dirt can simply be wiped off with a clean cloth. The fats moisten the ear canal at the same time as the dirt is removed.
Why shouldn’t the ears be cleaned with a cotton swab?
It has long been known that we shouldn’t use cotton swabs to clean our ears, and for good reason. Because the ear canal is like a narrow funnel. If we clean our ears with a cotton swab, we automatically press the dirt out of the skin and fine hairs towards the narrow end of the funnel. In the case of the ear, this is also the end of our ear canal.
In the worst case, it can happen that we clog our ear canal with an ear wax plug (cerumen obturans) and can no longer clean our ears ourselves. Because the wax in the ears can harden and cause hearing loss. You can find out more about this at the end of the article.
Cleaning ears: this is how it works
Rinsing your ears is a much better way of removing earwax. You don’t necessarily have to go to the ENT doctor for this, you can also do the rinsing at home. But it is important that your eardrum is intact and you do not suffer from any infection – healthy ears are therefore important.
A balloon syringe is suitable for such cleaning of the ears. You can get this in the pharmacy. Syringes made of metal or plastic work just as well, but there is an increased risk of injury. Particular caution is required here. It is important to rinse the balloon syringe several times with hot water before using it for proper ear care.
Step by step instructions for cleaning your ears:
- Fill the balloon syringe with 37 ° C warm water.
- Tilt your head to one side so your ear is pointing toward the ceiling.
- Pull your ear back and up slightly. This will straighten your ear canal.
- Carefully insert the balloon syringe and squeeze the ball.
- Let the water drain from one ear
- Repeat the process one or two more times.
The water pressure loosens the ear wax and is flushed out.
If you don’t want to splash water directly into your ear canal, you can have some water run into your ear to clean your ears while you are showering. But here, too, the same conditions apply as for ear irrigation. To all warm showers: If you like to take a hot shower, you should turn the temperature down beforehand so that you don’t scald your ear canal!
However, some people produce a lot – sometimes too much – of ear wax. In this case, too, it is possible to run water into your ear while showering to rinse out the cerumen. Then you can clean the auricle from dirt as usual with a damp cloth.
What are the risks of rinsing your ears?
Experts recommend consulting an ENT doctor to rinse your ears, as rinsing your ears is not entirely risk-free. Because the water pressure could damage the eardrum and too hot water could disturb the organ of equilibrium. The ENT doctor would check the eardrum before and after the irrigation and provide any follow-up care.
When the doctor should remove the wax
But there are also situations in which the ear, nose, and throat doctor should remove the wax because cleaning it is too risky.
Because clogged ears can be the reason for tinnitus. Usually, there is a hardened plug directly in front of the eardrum. On the one hand, this attenuates the sounds from outside, but on the other hand, it can also be a cause of annoying noises in the ear that interfere with hearing.
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