Death. Taxes. Earwax. Three of life’s formidable certainties we’re forced to accept. Only difference is we men can manage, more so tolerate the yellowish waxy substance that’s secreted in our ear canals. Still it goes without saying how gross and uncomfortable it is to have cerumen living in our hearing organs, especially since the accumulation over time impairs our hearing.
But get this. An estimated 12 million Americans annually visit medical professionals to earwax removal services, while having spent close to $63 million on cleaning products back in 2011. Makes you want to shove a cotton swab in there. Fall back cowboy. You’re no otolaryngologist. That’s not to say you can’t cure or stabilize such mucky situations.
What Not To Do
The beginner’s guide to ear cleaning starts with knowing what not to do. So, refrain from the following practices:
- Ear candling: No evidence exists of this method removing impacted cerumen. Not to mention candle wax can burn the face or cause plugging in the ear.
- No Q-Tips: Inserting these swabs into the ear only pushes back wax and blocks the canal, which can lead to hearing issues or a ruptured eardrum.
- Over-cleaning: Too much sterilization increases the odds of irritation, infections or cerumen impaction.
- Use of small, sharp objects: Hair pins, house keys, and toothpicks are just a few items that can lacerate the ear canal.
Vacuum devices are said to be just as dangerous resulting in the same complications. Thankfully, there are far more efficient ear-cleaning methods to work with. And before putting them to use, educate yourself on the science behind ear wax.
RELATED: Complete Your Grooming Routine With One Of These Ear & Nose Hair Trimmers
Reality is we need ear wax to ensure the health of the outer ear canal. Cerumen itself serves as a filter hosting antibacterial properties that trap bacteria and dust from entering the inner ears. This same sludge is what shields sensitive skin around the ear from irritants and exposure to water. It’s only recommended to remove some when an excess amount remains lodged inside. Exactly when and how many times are the more difficult questions to answer.
How Often Should I Clean Them?
There is no official answer to when you should clean out your ears. Every man’s body produces earwax at a different rate. Experts believe if you’re one to generate a normal or lesser amount of cerumen than normal, clearing the deck isn’t necessary. In cases where build-up becomes a common problem or some discomfort is felt when wearing a pair of elite workout headphones, then consider purging your hearers one a month. But not so fast.
Before Digging In…
Like any master grooming routine, cleaning your ears has layers. Start by practicing the art of mastication aka chewing. This creates movement in the ear canal that progressively pushes wax towards the ear opening. Placing a warm compress around the head or enjoying the steam from a hot shower loosens and forces wax out of the ear on its own.
The temptation to stuff a Q-tip in there is to be expected. However, you’ve already been warned of its dangers. They are still in fact serviceable for the cleaning process. Use the cotton buds to tidy up specific areas such as the concha or fossa. Reason for that is cerumen will either grow outside the canal and latch onto any present ear hair. Wax residue could stick around post leakage as well.
Little known fact: Ears are designed for self-cleaning due to its natural shape and structure, which helps redux wax. Then again it goes without saying that they require some hygienic attention. Now it’s time to work your way inside because all that blockage and build-up won’t exactly take care of itself. Hear us out on some of the best products and procedures to clean out your ears.
— Irrigation —
In other words, an ear flush. Irrigation is a common operation performed by doctors where warm water or diluted hydrogen peroxide is used to create a stream that flushes into the ear, removing cerumen in the process. Experts believe mineral oil to be the better cleansing agent for the warmth of the lubricate softens and loosens ear wax for easier drainage. This light mixture coats sensitive skin for protection and prevents dryness, too.
NOW Foods Ear Oil Relief
Here we have a herbal solution blended with gentle additives such as garlic, mullein, Tea Tree Oil, Vitamin E Oil, and Olive Oil that softens wax for swifter removal. Much of the ingredients used are best known for curing earaches and dry cracking, with a recommended 3-4 drops used in both ears and plugged with cotton to retain moisture. Most reviews rave about its unclogging capabilities and found the product to work better than antibiotics or steroids.
$8.56 at Amazon.com
Aloe Life Herbal Ear Wash
A soothing Aloe Vera base combined with nontoxic ingredients makes for a naturopathic elixir best used for cleaning itchy ears. Many of its anti-inflammatory elements operate to counter trauma in the ear canal from swimmer’s ear, vertigo, and common colds. Add anywhere between 10-12 drops daily to create some serious drip action for seamless flushing.
$8.39 at Amazon.com
Nature's Answer Mullein Flower Ear Oil
A topical formula designed for irritated ears, the holistically balanced anoint works to restrain tinnitus by relieving any sensitivity to sound and clearing the canal of ear wax. Mullein extract releases soothing compounds to remedy earaches and irritations. Use 1-3 drops, three times a day for positive results.
$8.95 at Amazon.com
— Extraction —
Drainage won’t completely remove ear wax. More serious cases of build up require physical instruments. Curettes remain the most popular options for cerumen extraction. Though keep in mind wax can develop outside of the ear canal and spread onto ear hair. Furry types will require that extra assistance.
Bionix Lighted Ear Curette Set
A favorite of most otolaryngologists, this curette set has received a ton of love for its collection of practical items that simplify extraction from its luminous source to the numerous tip sizes. Some joke by calling it a lightsaber for your ears due to the bright lighting, but if anything it provides the right amount of glow to gain quality peeks inside, so to apply the correct loop for wax removal. The bundle also comes with a magnifier, 7 wave curettes, and a ton of loops.
$71.28 at Amazon.com
Ototek Loop Ear Wax Removal
If the budget doesn’t call for a curette set, ain’t no shame in settling for this budget-friendly alternative. The Ototek Loop features a guard designed to keep the loop from puncturing your eardrum, pulling out wax rather than push it deeper into the canal. It’s reusable when washed in soap and water, plus its plastic construction holds up well for months of use.
$10.25 at Amazon.com
Mangroomer Pro Essential Nose and Ear Hair Trimmer
Ear hair is as much of a trivial signpost for poor grooming etiquette as it is for heart attacks. And as cerumen crawls its way out, you’ll want to remove those ear whiskers with a reliable ear-hair trimmer. Mangroomer’s offering easily shaves off undesired threads at the entrance to the ear canal without going in too deep. The hypo-allergenic stainless steel blades warrant sanitary trims, where as the HydraSpin Cleaning System rinses debris and shavings after use.
$10.99 at Amazon.com
— Ear-Cleaning Systems —
Digging through the medicine cabinet for multiple items becomes tedious. Ear wax removal kits are practically a one-stop shop with most, if not all the essentials to dispose of cerumen. Consider these to save time and tackle hardened wax.
Doctor Easy Wax-Rx Ph Conditioned Ear Wash System
Affordable, effective, and easy to use—Doctor Easy’s unique flush system delivers professional-grade ear cleaning in three simple steps. Start by placing several Removal Aid drops in each ear and wait 10 minutes. Take the accompanying spray and fill with warm water, attach the sprayer with a disposable tip twisted onto the nozzle, and place the basin under the ear to rapidly pump fluid. Lastly, place one of the Wax-Rx pH Conditioning Powder packs into the bottle with water and rinse. Everything is accounted for.
$71.28 at Amazon.com
Squip Kyrosol-Ear Wax Removal Kit
Sound engineers love the syringe-centric wash system for its impressive comfort and performance. Squip employs patented technology that provides optimum safety when placing the translucent tube in the ear, with the glycerin-based solution dissolving hard wax chunks in heavy doses. Despite requiring a high number of fills (est. 12-15) in each ear, the sturdy build quality and convenient price tag compensate for such minor shortcomings.
$10.49 at Amazon.com
Bionix OtoClear Portable Ear Irrigation System
Expensive? Sure. Superbly effective? Absolutely. Bionix’s flushing kit comes in a compact, lightweight design that administers great pulsed irrigation that directs water to the ear canal wall with “three divergent streams,” flushing out giant gobs of ear wax. Portability alone makes it a great travel companion with 40 diffuser tips sufficing for hearing-impaired frequent flyers.
$151.95 at Amazon.com
Debrox Earwax Removal Kit
An over-the-counter favorite, Debrox keeps it simple with a soft rubber bulb ear syringe and ear wax drops. The kit uses what the company calls “microfoam cleansing action” to soften and loosen excessive earwax, which is then naturally drained out of the ear after completely breaking down all guck. Let the solution sit for about 8-10 minutes before flushing.
$9.70 at Amazon.com