©John M. Adams,
Most of us do it wrong. We clean our ears
with cotton swabs, despite warnings from the
hearing community, TV commentators and mom.
Ear Wax - The Whole Sticky
OK, it’s not much of a story, but ear wax,
called cerumen by hearing professionals, is
produced by tiny glands that line the ear canal
- the tube that connects the outer ear with the
And, believe it or not, ear wax actually
plays a role in protecting your hearing. This
sticky substance is designed to trap dirt and
other debris floating in the air before it
reaches the delicate, middle and inner ear
mechanisms. And, muscles in the ear canal push
this debris toward the outer ear. In other
words, the ear is self-cleaning, even if ear
wax is kind of gross.
How to Puncture An Ear Drum in One
Most of use cotton swabs to remove cerumen and
other gunk that accumulates within the ear
simply by living life. It’s a natural
occurrence. However, many of us have actually
been taught that ear hygiene requires a good
reaming of the ear canal with a cotton swab.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, there’s the obvious danger of
damaging the delicate tympanic membrane. Even
puncturing it. For life. That alone should be
reason enough to keep cotton on a stick away
from your ears. But there’s another reason.
Ear wax catches minute dust and debris that
floats its way into your ear each day. And,
this gunk is moved toward the outer ear, away
from the eardrum. Now, every time you “clean”
your ears with a cotton swab you (1) remove the
sticky stuff that’s supposed to be there and
(2) you push dirt, debris and cerumen further
into the ear - closer to the ear drum. And over
time, this wax and dirt can become impacted
deep within the ear canal.
When things get this bad, professional
medical help is usually required.
The Right Way to Clean Your
First, don’t stick anything down the ear canal
- a cotton swab, a hair pin, toothpick or, as
the old cliché goes, your elbow.
Instead, use a wash cloth and gently wash
the outer ear, front and back, with soap and
warm water. If water tends to get into the ear
canal during this cleaning phase, pick up some
wax ear plugs at the pharmacy. These wax plugs
can be shaped to fit the opening of your ear
canal and prevent water from entering.
Dry your outer ear, (FYI, called the pina by
professionals) to prevent water from entering
the ear canal. Be sure to remove all soap and
water from the pina.
And you’re done.
If ear wax does
accumulate to the point where it has a negative
impact on hearing, buy an over-the-counter ear
wash system which includes an ear wax softener
and a rubber bulb to flush out the ear.
Use warm water and gently flush excess wax
from your ear regularly - before it causes a
problem. That’ll make things a whole lot
Finally, if the OTC remedy doesn’t work,
it’s time to seek help from your hearing health
professional. An abundance of cerumen is common
and there are several remedies you can try to
alleviate the problem