One of the most common conditions we see in the ear canal is wax.  Wax is supposed to be created in the outer quarter of our ear canals every day as a protective measure.  This forms a barrier against debris or dust that might damage the ear drum.  With normal movements of the jaw (eating, speaking, and yawning) this wax will  fall out harmlessly. 

ear anatomy

There are a few people, however, who tend to keep their wax in one or both canals, and these are the ones that end up in my office for treatment.  There are three reasons for people to have retained ear-wax problems:

1. Bad luck.  Simply the shape of the ear canal, for example if it is quite narrow at the exit, could make a “bottleneck” effect, clogging pieces of wax. 

ear plugs

2. Ear pieces, for music or phone, have now become extremely popular.  Unfortunately, they also can be like a drain plug for the ear canal.  The situation only gets worse if wearers use the molded ones that really fit tightly into the canal.  For people who need hearing aids, the deeper fit is sometimes necessary to ensure good sound. In younger people, the object is to avoid needing a hearing aid, especially after loud music concerts, or exposure to loud noises such as gunfire etc. 

ear noise

3. Q-tips – Instead of reaming out wax, these devilish weapons act more like a ram-rod in a rifle barrel.  


These pack the wax deep inside the canal, up against the ear drum.  This makes it almost impossible for the wax to be removed at home, and will require a visit to your doctor for syringing or curetting safely.  Some times even more damage is done, with the tip actually piercing the drum. 

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So how do I prevent and remove wax in my ears?

1. Lubricate, with clear oil.  A few drops (or capful) of oil will lubricate and partially liquify dry wax in the ear canal.  Use olive oil, mineral oil, or any other clear oil.  (note to guys, NOT 10W30 ! ).  Tip your head to the side, insert the oil drops, then wait until you are bored (at least a few minutes).  Then catch the oil with a tissue, and jump into your shower (so oil won’t end up dribbling onto your clothes). 

ear wax

2. Do NOT use a candle.  This is about as idiotic a home remedy as one can imagine.  

 Great way to set fire to your hair.  The object is supposedly to create a vacuum in the ear, which actually never happens.  Then you get hot wax dribbling onto the side of your head, plus you look like a dolt.  If you have impacted wax, PLEASE don’t try this at home!!  You will end up having your ear syringed with a FIRE HOSE!

3. Be very careful if you use a home bulb device. 

ear bulb

Really easy to hurt yourself if you force the issue.  Also, you are shooting blind, and could easily complicate the issue if the drum is already perforated, or if there is infection along the external canal.  Remember, even a doctor who treats himself at home has two problems: a fool for a doctor, and a fool for a patient!

4. Please see your doctor.  If you are a regular wax former, then get on a schedule to have the doctor or his assistant professionally syringe the wax out.  Then follow by regular oil every week, with revisits as required.  

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