Should I Try Ear Irrigation?

Chances are you’ve heard a whole lot of suggestions about the best way to clean ears. The recommendations have changed over the years as we’ve learned more and more about the ear, the ear’s structure, ear wax, and how it all works together to facilitate and protect hearing. Ear candling is a big, dangerous no-go where it was once Grandma’s personal advice. Cotton swabs pose a risk when inserted into the ear canal, something most of us learned to do anyway. And now, we know that ear wax may be a good thing in moderation.
So, what other options are there when you want or need to clean your ears?
In some cases, ear irrigation may be just what you need.
What is ear irrigation?
If you’re considering ear irrigation, chances are it’s because you have a build-up of earwax. Ear wax is a waxy substance, also known as cerumen, that is produced in the outer ear canal to help protect the ear with its sticky consistency and antibacterial properties.
While it does play an important role by keeping bacteria out of the ear and removing dead skin cells, dust and other particles that find their way into the ear, it can also build up causing discomfort and even some hearing loss. In these cases, ear irrigation either at home or in your hearing healthcare professional’s office may prove a good solution.
The procedure involves flushing out the inside of the ear with liquid. If done at home, this is often completed with an over-the-counter kit.
The room-temperature liquid is inserted into the ear canal with a special syringe. The fluid then drains out, usually onto a towel placed on the shoulder, ideally washing ear wax out with it.
The procedure is similar when done at your hearing healthcare provider’s office.
While it is considered a relatively safe option for cleaning the ear, it’s important to ask the right questions before doing any ear irrigation to make sure it’s the best option for you.
Should I choose ear irrigation?
If you’re considering ear irrigation, start by asking these questions of yourself and your hearing healthcare provider:

  • Why do I want to clean my ears? Ear irrigation is best used for ear wax build-up and is often not recommended for other conditions or general cleaning.
  • Do I have conditions that would make ear irrigation unsafe? Those with swimmer’s ear, ear damage, middle ear disease and similar conditions should not attempt ear irrigation and should discuss other options with their hearing healthcare provider.
  • Are there other options that might work better for me? Ear irrigation is not the only option for ear cleaning. Ear wax softener drops or manual removal by a doctor may be the best choices for you.

It’s important to discuss your unique situation and the best ear cleaning strategies with your hearing healthcare provider. Some providers will recommend avoiding ear irrigation altogether to minimize the risk of damaging the ear.
If you have questions about ear cleaning, ear irrigation or your hearing health, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

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