What's the correct way to clean my ears?

Living Well

If you ask most people how they clean their ears, they'll probably point to a box of cotton swabs tucked away in the corner of their bathrooms. However, cotton swabs may be the only product in America that a huge majority uses for one purpose, ear cleaning, when it says explicitly on the box NOT to use cotton swabs for this very purpose!

The ear canal contains special cells that produce cerumen, also known as ear wax, that serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating and antibacterial properties. Ear wax should be removed regularly, but using cotton swabs to clean your ears could cause hearing loss or a damaged ear canal with just one awkward movement. There's no reason to put yourself at risk when there are safe, effective alternatives available:

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has been in use for decades as a means of cleaning out one's ears by softening and loosening the ear wax in the ear canal. This solution is very strong and can cause irritation with excessive use, so it should only be used once per day. After a small amount is placed in the ear with a dropper, the (now) liquid wax can drain out of the ear and be swiped away with a cotton ball. Hydrogen peroxide has myriad uses around the home, but it can be eligible for reimbursement with consumer-directed healthcare accounts with a Letter of Medical Necessity from a physician.

Mineral Oil

For a less caustic substance to use in the ear canal, mineral oil is a popular option that can assist in loosening and extracting ear wax. Mineral oil should be kept slightly warm or at room temperature before being placed in the ear to make it easier for the wax and oil to drain out of the ear. Once again, use a cotton ball to clean up the material that drains from the ear canal. Performing this action once per week can effectively clean ears and remove stubborn wax blockages.

Ear Unclogger

Did you know that swallowing and yawning are the body's natural means of cleaning the ears? The natural rhythm of the Eustachian tubes can clear out the ears of wax, but if you need a little bit of help, an FSA-eligible ear unclogger can provide a soft boost of air to clear out the ear canal. This is an easy option for daily cleanings, and it can be extremely effective during cold and allergy season, as well as after swimming or scuba diving.

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