Video transcription

Hi I'm Dr. David Hill and today we are going to be talking about how to get rid of ear wax. Now in my pediatric practice this is a question I get a lot of. Parents see wax in the child's outer ear, get worried about it, think it shouldn't be there, maybe it's unsightly and they want it out of there. However, the important thing to remember is that ear wax, we call it cerumen in medicine serves a very important protective function for the ear. Your wax is kind of magical stuff. Obviously it forms a physical barrier between dirt or insects or things that might try to get into the ear but it also forms a chemical barrier. Ear wax is slightly acidic and it suppresses the growth of bacteria so ideally the ear is going to keep some ear wax in it at all times. Too little ear wax is one of the causes of an external ear infection or swimmer's ear. Now how does the ear clean itself? I have got a model of the ear. Ear wax is formed in the outer portion of the ear. It really doesn't form down by the ear drum. The only time we see ear wax down by the ear drum is when somebody has used a Q-tip to try and get it out and let me show you what happens. You'll hear doctors tell you always never to put a Q-tip in the ear. Why? Well the ear canal narrows about half way down and when you put a Q-tip in to try and get the wax out what you really do is you just push more in until you get to this bottle neck right here and that's usually where it stops. So Q-tip, bad. Some people say well I just clean the outside of the ear, great but if you are going to do that just use a wash cloth in the bath. So how come our ears aren't totally full of wax all the time? Well this is the neat thing about ears. The skin of the ear canal actually grows slowly outward. It is like a little conveyor belt that is carrying the wax always toward the outside part of the ear where it dries up and falls out or comes out in the bath from time to time. Now there are some things you can do if you or your child are prone to clogged ears. There are some home remedies. You can instill for example a solution of half alcohol and half white vinegar which is just acetic acid, especially if you are a swimmer or your child has been swimming a lot that may be protected against swimmer's ear to put a few drops of that in the ear and then shake it back out after every contact with water. You can also buy over the counter medications, one brand name is Debrox and you can also use plain mineral oil or baby oil. You don't want to use vegetable oil because that can go rancid but you can use a mineral oil to sort of loosen up the ear wax and help it come out. Another simple thing is just washing the ear with warm water and soap during bathing to get the wax out of the outside of the ear. Now when wax is really a problem if it is causing pain or inflammation or hearing loss, the doctor is going to want to look in that ear and assess the degree of the problem using an otoscope. We have special instruments like these ear curads and we can always watching what we do through the otoscope at an ear, nose, and throat doctor's office through an operating microscope we can see exactly where we are going and make sure that we're not pushing the wax farther into the ear and also make sure that we don't injure this very delicate skin inside the ear canal as we are pulling it out. Even then it can be a painful procedure and can cause some bleeding so it is something we'll try to avoid. We'll often use some form of wash instead to get the wax out although if you are going to wash the ear a doctor has to have looked in there first to make sure that the ear drum doesn't have a hole in it because you don't want to wash debris and bacteria down into this very sensitive middle ear. So talking about how to get wax out of an ear I'm Dr. David Hill.