Cate Sibley, PharmD
Cate Sibley, PharmD
Cate Sibley, PharmD, graduated from Northeastern University in Boston and has experience as a home infusion clinical pharmacist and a staff pharmacist in the retail setting. She has a passion for teaching others how to live a joyful, vital life using complementary health approaches.

How to Get Rid of Earwax Buildup

NOVEMBER 08, 2017
Last week, I broke the cardinal rule when it comes to trying to remove earwax build-up. I used a cotton-tipped swab to try to clean the wax out. I know better than to use any kind of probing device in my ear, but I have admittedly used the same cleaning technique for years with no issues.

This time was different though. I immediately knew I had pushed the earwax further into my ear instead of removing it, because within seconds my hearing was clearly muffled. I knew I had not perforated my eardrum because I did not insert the cotton-tipped swab far enough into my ear. Also, I did not have any of the tell-tale signs of a perforated eardrum, which per the Mayo Clinic can include ear pain that may subside quickly; clear, pus-filled, or bloody drainage from the ear; hearing loss; ringing in the ear known as tinnitus; a spinning sensation known as vertigo; and nausea and vomiting that can result from vertigo.

It is important to note that ears are self-cleaning. Ideally, the ear canals should never have to be cleaned. Extra earwax should move out of the ear canal on its own, because cells in this location of the body migrate naturally. The migration of the earwax is helped along by movements of the jaw, such as when one talks or chews food. Once the earwax reaches the outer parts of the ear, it is washed away during bathing or it just falls out.

In my situation, I was concerned only because I had to go to work at the pharmacy in an hour and my muffled hearing was annoying. Instead of running to my local drugstore, I gathered a couple of common household items to immediately implement an easy remedy to clear my earwax build-up.

Here are the steps I took, with the help of my husband:

1.    I laid on my side and placed a towel under my head
2.    I placed a few drops of olive oil in the affected ear to soften the wax. Coconut oil or water also work.
3.    After about 10 minutes, I poured a capful of 3% hydrogen peroxide into my ear to flush the wax out.
4.    After an additional 5 to 10 minutes when the bubbling from the peroxide subsided, I sat up and used the towel to rub my ear a little bit to relieve the tickle that the hydrogen peroxide created and to wipe out the oil and peroxide from my outer ear.

Following those simple steps immediately cleared the earwax blockage from my ear, and my muffled hearing went away entirely. This may need to be done a couple of times a day for a few days to gain similar results.

The only adverse effect I felt was a residual slight itch or tickle that was created from the bubbling of the hydrogen peroxide. This tickling sensation disappeared after about 10 minutes.

The over-the-counter Debrox (carbamide peroxide) could be used in place of my remedy. Debrox works in a similar manner in that it softens, loosens, and removes earwax.

As a final note, a frequent build-up of earwax can often be traced to an omega-3 deficiency. Taking a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, or eating foods high in omega-3s, such as sardines, anchovies, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, may remedy excess earwax buildup. Prevention may be the best way to treat this problem.

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