Contrary to popular belief, using q-tips or bobby pins to remove earwax isn't the best way to clean your ears. They don't do the job effeciently, and might even push earwax further into your aural canal. Doctors recommend against putting foreign objects in your ear, especially if they have the ability to puncture or damage your eardrum. Damage to your inner ear can lead to hearing loss, so it's best to avoid anything that might pose risk to your sense of hearing.
That being said, not cleaning your ears can lead to more issues. One of these issues is impaction, a condition that occurs when earwax forms a mass inside your aural canal.
What is impaction?
Impaction is when earwax builds up inside your ear and begins to solidify. This can cause headaches and other symptoms, and even affect your hearing. When the issue reaches this point, it's time to see a doctor and get the mass professionally removed. Earwax catches oil and dirt, so it's best to remove it from the ear as quickly as possible.
The symptoms of impaction include: ringing and aching in the ear, impaired hearing, dizziness, and even an odor. If you regularly use earbuds or hearing aids, you might be more likely to develop an impaction. This is why it is important to keep your hearing devices and ears clean.
How do I safely clean my ears?
Knowing how to clean ears is an important part of hygiene and self-maintenance. However, unlike brushing your teeth and showering, it does not need to be done very frequently. The motions of your jaw while speaking and eating usually work out earwax naturally, and keeping your outer ears clean with wet cloths is enough. However, you might need to clean your inner ear canal, which requires a lot of care and attention.
The best way to do this is to visit a professional. They will have the necessary tools and training to clean your ears. Some of these practices can be done at home, including ear irrigation. This is when the ear is rinsed and cleaned. Over-the-counter earwax softeners can be used to break up and loosen the earwax, and then you can gently rinse your ears with a saline solution.
People with diabetes, immuno-defeciency conditions, or holes in their eardrum should not attempt this. If you are hard of hearing, discuss your ear cleaning options with your doctor before attempting anything.
It is also important to keep your Signia hearing aids clean. Swabbing and irrigating your ears is pointless if your hearing devices are going to remain dirty. Use the cleaning kit given to you by your hearing care provider, and make sure to follow procedure.
Deciding when to see a doctor
If you think you might be suffering from an impaction, schedule a visit with your doctor or another hearing care professional. The symptoms might be difficult to spot, as they can be mistaken or overlooked. If you think you might be suffering hearing loss because of earwax buildup, do not try to deal with the impaction on your own, and do not use foreign objects to try and dislodge the earwax. Your inner ear is very delicate, and you might end up severely hurting yourself.
If there is no impaction, your difficulty hearing might be caused by another source. Schedule a hearing test with a professional audiologist, and stay on top of your aural health.