Earwax is a very common problem. Earwax, also known as cerumen, is made by special glands in the ear canal. It provides lubrication and protects the ear from things which may get into the canal. Normally it builds up in very small amounts and is not a problem. It dries up in the ear canal and falls out when one eats, talks, or moves their jaw.

Some people have very active earwax glands which produce too much earwax. Others have small ear canals. Sometimes the wax builds up very fast and blocks the ear canal. This can decrease your hearing and may also cause a full sensation in the ear.

For most people, the ear canal is self cleaning, however occasionally the ear wax builds up so fast that it needs to be cleaned out.

Do not use Q-tips, hairpins, matches, or ear candles!

These objects can damage the eardrum and ear canal. Usually these objects only push the wax deeper into the canal and make things worse. Ear candles can cause burns and do not remove ear wax.

A couple of manufacturers, Murine and Debrox, make earwax removal kits which have an oily solution for softening the wax and a bulb syringe to gently wash out the wax once it is soft. Follow the directions on the box.

A less expensive way to clean earwax is to put several drops of oil in the ear canal overnight. Oil is a wax softening liquid. Any kind of oil will do: mineral oil and cooking oil of any type will do just fine. After the oil is in the canal, put a piece of cotton in the canal to prevent it from staining clothing and linens. In the morning, wash it out in the shower. You may have to do this for several days. It is very safe! You can do this as often as you like to help control wax build up. In general, once a month is fine for people who have earwax problems.

See your health care provider if you need help in cleaning your ears.