Health Watch — Ear Care: Removing Ear Wax

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about caring for your ears. Previously, we talked about how you shouldn’t try to remove ear wax on your own. Ear wax is a natural substance secreted in the outer part of the ear canal, and it helps protect the ear.

When ear wax builds up, it can cause pain or itching, and that makes it tempting to try to remove it. But most methods you could use at home could damage your ears and make matters worse. Dr. Peter Roland says cotton swabs or water jet irrigators can cause damage. Wax dissolving agents, syringes or irrigation can be effective, but should only be done by medical personnel. Ear candles, an alternative remedy found in health food stores and new age shops, are potentially dangerous. Not only are they not effective, but they could cause burns, and they’ve been condemned by doctors and the Food and Drug Administration. If you experience pain, itching or hearing loss from built-up ear wax, see your doctor to have the excess wax removed professionally.

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September 2008

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