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Are you cleaning your ears wrong?

Your mum was right when she told you not to stick things in your ears.

The humble ear plays such an important part in our lives. Just imagine life without music or the sound of your loved ones’ voices? But many of us don’t realise we might be doing our ears more harm than good when we reach for the cotton ear buds.

And not just because you could potentially push it in too far and perforate an ear drum.

Self-cleaning ears

It might surprise some people to find out that ears are generally self-cleaning. Ear wax, technically called cerumen, is produced to protect your ears by lubricating the ear canal, trapping dirt, dust and bacteria, and transporting it out of the ear canal. Typically the wax then dries and falls out without you even noticing it.

Ear wax is produced by tiny glands in the outer third of the ear canal. When you stick something into the ear to clean it, like a cotton bud for instance, you can potentially push the wax back down the ear canal towards the ear drum compacting the ear wax, which can impair your hearing and lead to infections.

What about ear candling?

There is some conjecture around exactly how ear candling works. One theory is that the warmed air meets the cooler air and creates a vacuum that draws wax and bacteria out of the ear.

So is it effective? The review of literature and practical experiments fails to provide evidence that ear candles are an effective treatment for any condition, and are in fact associated with considerable risks. They are not recommended.

In summary

The golden rule is to leave your ears to clean themselves.

If you do suffer from excess wax build up for whatever reason, try using a warm wash cloth or the home remedy of putting 2-3 drops of baby or mineral oil into the ear to aid the softening and expulsion of wax. And as always, see your doctor if the symptoms persist.

Read more about caring for your eyes 

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