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The 2024 New Year's Resolution: Stop Using Q-Tips for Ear Wax Removal

Need any last-minute New Year’s resolutions? 


2024 is the perfect year to begin (or continue) protecting your ear health! To start the year off with healthy practices, putting down the Q-tip when cleaning your ears is a great first step. 

Contrary to popular belief, ear wax is not a sign of poor hygiene. Ear wax (cerumen) is important for protecting your ears as it lubricates the delicate skin, keeping it moisturized, and preventing dryness and itchiness. Ear wax also traps and prevents dust, bacteria, and other debris from entering and/or damaging the ear.

Ear wax is self-cleaning. Typically, the wax naturally moves toward the outer ear canal and falls out. For many people, there is no need to do anything more than their typical shower routine to remove ear wax. 

About 5% of adults overproduce earwax, which may result in problems such as a plugged ear canal which can result in infections, hearing loss, earaches, and other problems. But, q-tips are not the solution. 

Q-tips can be damaging to the ear, as they can push wax further into the ear canal and can damage the eardrum or the delicate skin in the ear canal. 

So what can you do instead?

Ear wax removal should only be done by a licensed audiologist or a physician who has been trained to remove ear wax. If you have excessive ear wax, you can make an appointment with an audiologist at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) who can remove ear wax safely through irrigation, suction, or instrumentation. An audiologist will assess the seriousness of the ear wax buildup before deciding what actions to take.

For minor problems, it is safe to clean the outside of your ears with a washcloth gently. You also can try putting a few drops of baby oil, hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, or glycerin in your ear to soften the wax. Additionally, most over-the-counter wax removal kits are effective at softening wax so it can work its way out of the ear naturally. It is important to still consult a physician when attempting to remove ear wax at home. 

To schedule an appointment with one of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute’s (PEI) audiologists for cerumen removal, please call 215.780.3180.