Do You Have to Clean Your Ears?
You might be surprised to learn this, but cleaning your ears is not a hygienic or medical necessity, as, in the vast majority of cases, ears can clean themselves and don’t require any additional assistance from us. The few cases when ears do require an additional scrub is when they’re infected or blocked by hardened earwax, in which case you can go to your doctor to conduct an irrigation procedure or do it at home.
In the case of a clogged ear, the irrigation procedure requires special drops that will loosen up the hardened earwax and make it easy to remove by cleaning it out with water in a special syringe-like contraption. In case of infections, however, this method will not be sufficient or effective and you will likely need to take antibiotics to recover.
But even though we don’t need to clean our ears per se, many of us do feel self-conscious about apparent earwax and choose to get rid of it, and admittedly, some people, particularly seniors and people with a lot of hair in their ears do produce more of it than the rest of us. Since our ears are so sensitive, however, this grooming ritual may cause more harm than good, especially if you're not careful.
Using Olive Oil to Remove Ear Wax
Cleaning your ears using a Q-tip (a cotton swab) is dangerous, as you might actually create an earwax plug by smushing the earwax together with the tip of the Q-tip. Even worse, there were reported cases of people puncturing or damaging their eardrums while cleaning their ears using a cotton swab. The truth is that Q-tips are not intended for internal use in the ear and you should use it only to clean the outside of your ears.
One alternative to cotton swabs is warm oil or water drops. Using this method, a person will use 2-3 drops of liquid in the ear, which supposedly loosens the earwax and makes it easy to wipe down with a tissue. This treatment is considered safe by many, but is using olive oil in your ear as harmless as many people think?
Not entirely, as some doctors point out that irrigating your ears with olive oil can cause side effects, such as skin irritation, allergic reactions, itching, dizziness, and outer ear infections. There is also some medical research on the topic. A 2013 study, for example, found that while olive oil drops do help loosen up the earwax, it actually also increases the amount of earwax you produce, which makes the very procedure kind of counter-productive.
An earlier paper from 2010, on the other hand, found that while using olive oil to clean away earwax was more effective than no treatment, it’s much less effective than prescription ear drops intended for irrigation. In the end, using olive oil is considered safer than using Q-tips to remove excess earwax. But remember that it’s not necessary to do so and it’s arguable if olive oil is even beneficial, as it may make you produce more earwax. If you want to learn how to use this method, follow this link to find a detailed explanation.
Also, keep in mind that people with a ruptured eardrum and children should never use this method or any other liquid to clean their ears unless otherwise advised by a doctor.