Clean ears are important for health and proper hearing. The human ear is self-cleaning, but wax and skin can build up, blocking the inner ear and even causing pain and infection. Taking care of the outer ear is fairly simple, but be careful and gentle when cleaning the ear canal. Knowing what to use and what not to use makes all the difference.
Cleaning the Outer Ear
Clean the outer ear by using a washcloth and soap and rinsing with warm water. This can be done in the shower on a daily basis. Do not use objects to clean the outer ear, because you could slip and the object could puncture the eardrum. Use only cleansers designated for facial use.
Cleaning the Ear Canal
Never use a cotton swab to clean the inner ear. Wax is a natural part of ear protection, and the skin in the ear canal is thin and sensitive. Cotton swabs can compact the wax, causing blockage and hearing loss.
It is not necessary to clean the inner ear regularly. If you experience wax buildup, and you know that your eardrum is intact, there are simple products you can use. A few drops of olive or baby oil in the ear canal can soften the wax. Let the oil sit for a few minutes, then tilt the ear to drain it.
A bulb syringe filled with warm water can also flush out the ear. The water should be warm, not hot. Do not use a lot of pressure on the bulb. Irrigate the ear gently. If water goes in but does not drain out, consult your health care provider.
Taking care of your ears protects them from injury and hearing loss. To protect the outer ear, wear sunscreen and a helmet when riding a bicycle. Any injury to the outer or inner ear should be seen by a doctor.