One of the most prevalent reasons for short-term hearing loss is an accumulation of ear wax, which obstructs the ear canal and disturbs hearing. Naturally, if you have encountered this or believe that a buildup of ear wax may have caused some diminished hearing, you want to clean out your ears. The real question is how to do this safely, and without damaging the sensitive tissues of your ear or your ability to hear.

To stress health and safety when cleaning your ears, we will begin with what not to do. One of the things to avoid is attempting to remove ear wax by placing cotton swabs or any foreign object into your ears; this could cause the wax to become compacted and worsen the problem. Another thing you should never do is attempt to use any product that sprays water under pressure (such as a WaterPik) directly into your ears; doing this risks perforating your eardrums. Finally, if you suspect either an ear infection or a punctured eardrum, do not try to clean your ears at home. Have a hearing specialist do it right. Symptoms suggesting a possible ear infection or ruptured ear drum include fluid draining from the ears, ear pain, fever and vomiting or diarrhea.

For gentle home ear cleaning, get a syringe or bulb at the pharmacy and an appropriate solution with which to rinse out the ears. Such solutions (often called carbamide peroxide) can be bought at drug stores; you can also mix your own solution by mixing equal amounts of mineral oil, 3-4% and glycerin.

When using this solution, it’s best to lay on your side over a towel to catch any drips or lean over a sink; then you just squeeze the solution gently into each ear, ideally without touching the ear with the bulb or syringe. Allow the solution to linger in your ear for a couple of minutes and then repeat the process with the other ear.

The solution will soften and loosen the accumulated ear wax so it can be washed away. Use lukewarm water to rinse each ear and towel dry. Again, do not insert anything into the ear when drying. If your ears still seem blocked, repeat the process a few times per day for 2 to 3 days. Talk to your a hearing specialist or audiologist if the problem continues to persist.