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Quick Dose: Are There Safe Ways to Remove Ear Wax?

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Ear wax may be gross, but the truth is, it’s not medically necessary to remove it. Your body naturally produces wax as a protective mechanism for the ear canal. The ear canal is self-cleaning, pushing wax out of the canal where it eventually dries, flakes and falls out on its own. Some people produce thicker wax or more wax than others, which can potentially cause hearing loss or ear ache.

When it comes to removing ear wax, over-the-counter drops designed to soften wax can be an effective home remedy. Place one or two drops into the ear canal a few minutes before taking a shower. The drops liquefy the wax so you can rinse it out during your normal shower routine.

Q-tips or other objects should never be used to clean your ears. Q-tips essentially push the ear wax deeper into your ear canal, creating a worse blockage that will be increasingly more difficult to remove. Additionally, stay away from ear wax candles. They are not safe and can result in burns. They can also cause wax to get stuck in your ear.

If these home treatments don’t give you the results you’re seeking, or you begin to experience pain, hearing loss or discomfort, talk to your physician to determine the best course of action.

- Riddhi Patel, MD, Otolaryngology, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group and Seth Kay, MD, Otolaryngology, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group

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