Michael Crawford, M.D. Otolaryngologist
Ear wax is a good thing and removing it constantly is actually making matters worse. When you look at a population of people, those with wax are healthier than those who do not have wax. It’s a protection.
Does ear wax cause any problems?
Some people, they make an awful lot of it, and it accumulates and creates symptoms. The symptoms can be as simple as noise in the ear or hearing loss, but certainly pain, tenderness, and itching.
How do I know if I have too much ear wax?
Most of the time, patients will get that identified to them as their family physician looks in the ear and says you have a lot of wax in there and cleans it out because he can’t see your ear drum or I can see your ear drum just fine and the wax is appropriate and you should leave it alone. These are probably the best kinds of instructions to patients.
Can I use Q-tips to clean my ears?
Q-tips are a source of visits by patients.It is very common to have a hearing loss from wax impaction and the Q-tips make it worse. It tends to push the wax back into the canal and up against the ear drum, representing then a painful difficulty in trying to get the wax relieved. That’s why you will see an ENT usually relieve them with a vacuum or micro-instruments under a microscope.
When should ears be cleaned?
They should only be cleaned when they’re needed, when you see a problem with hearing loss, or you have itching, an odor, or some drainage.
Can I prevent problems with ear wax?
Most of the time I suggest use of oils and certainly a common oil is anything in the kitchen: some Mazola, some Crisco, some olive oil if you wish. A couple of drops placed in once every 2-3 weeks just to make things a little more moist and lubricated and allowing it to come out.
Ear wax provides protection for our ears. Dr. Michael Crawford, Board Certified Otolaryngologist at Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute, explains why ear wax is important, when it can become a problem and why you shouldn't use Q-tips to remove it.