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How to clear impacted ear wax

Updated March 23, 2017

Ear wax protects the inner ear by trapping bacteria and other substances that could cause damage or infection. Most of the time, wax falls out of the ear canal and ends up on the outer ear where it can be safely wiped away. When a person produces too much ear wax, or when wax is pushed back into the ear during cleaning attempts, it can become impacted and block the ear canal. This may cause pain, pressure, temporary hearing loss, or ringing in the ear. Impacted ear wax can often be removed at home, and a doctor can remove it if home care is not sufficient.

Choose mineral oil, baby oil, hydrogen peroxide, glycerine, or a commercial ear wax remover to soften the impacted ear wax.

Place a few drops of the liquid into the ear twice a day using an eyedropper.

Irrigate the ear after you have used the softening agent for a day or two. Fill a bulb syringe with room-temperature water, pull your outer ear up and back, and squeeze the water into your ear. Lean your head to the side and allow the water to drain out onto a washcloth.

Dry the outer ear with a towel. You can place a few drops of rubbing alcohol in your ear, or use a hand-held hair dryer on the low setting to help dry the ear, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Repeat the softening and irrigating process for four to five days if necessary until the wax plug falls out, according to the Mayo Clinic.

See your doctor to have the blockage suctioned or scooped out if your attempts at removal are not successful.

Tip

If you experience frequent ear wax blockages, ask your doctor if you might benefit from occasionally using a wax-removal agent.

Warning

Do not put any liquid, or anything else, into the ear if you think you have a ruptured ear drum. Never place a cotton swab or any other object into the ear canal to remove ear wax. You could damage your eardrum or push wax deeper into the ear, which could cause or worsen a blockage. Do not use a strong jet of water to irrigate your ear; this could damage the eardrum.

Things You'll Need

  • Baby oil, mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, glycerine, or commercial ear wax softener
  • Eyedropper
  • Bulb syringe
  • Towel
  • Rubbing alcohol or a hair dryer
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About the Author

Shannon Cotton is a freelance writer covering a variety of topics, including parenting, health and lifestyle. After nine years of writing for a weekly newspaper, she took her love of writing to the Web. Cotton attended Tarleton State University and received her bachelor’s degree in 2003.