Ear Wax

Ear wax is a yellow, waxy substance secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals. It plays an important role in the human body. Ear wax protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water.

Ideally, your ears will clean themselves: As you move your jaw, the tiny hairs in the ear canal will sweep earwax and debris out of the ear. But sometimes the wax gets pushed too far into the ear canal where it dries and becomes hard. When that happens, it can cause pain, itchiness and temporary hearing loss.

The presence of earwax is beneficial, but it sometimes becomes a problem if it builds up. If you notice excess wax build-up or any hearing loss or pain, see your doctor for treatment.

Luckily for those with impacted wax build-up, there are plenty of remedies to try at home before you see a doctor or otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor or ENT). Most of these remedies use things you already have in your medicine cabinet or kitchen.

Warmth can help to soften earwax and make it easier to remove. The simplest way to warm your ear is to fill a sock with uncooked rice and then heat it for about 30 seconds in a microwave oven. You should then wrap this sock around your outer ear for about 5 minutes. The temperature from the rice should then be transferred into your ear canal and help to melt any wax inside.

You can also try using an eyedropper filled with baby oil to soften the wax in your ear. Lie on your side and use the dropper to put several drops of oil into your ear. Then wait about 10 minutes so that the oil has time to soften the wax before draining out onto a tissue.

If you have a build-up of earwax that doesn’t go away within a couple days of home treatment, see an otolaryngologist. Ear syringing using warm water at a local clinic can painlessly clear wax build-up. If you have other symptoms — deafness lasting more than three days or severe pain in your ears that affects your hearing — see a professional ear care team right away. You could have an infection or other serious condition that needs prompt care.