No one likes ear wax, but you need it. It helps keep your ears clean and protects dust and dirt from getting deep inside your ear canal, where it may cause infection and other problems.
North Americans seem disgusted by ear wax. We put things in our ear to try and scoop it out or use other unproven methods like ear candling to draw it out. There are also a ton of at-home ear cleaning kits.
But the truth is that your ears do a great job of cleaning themselves. And it is the wax—also called cerumen—that does it.
If you’re worried about an ear wax buildup negatively impacting your hearing, then avoid putting cotton swabs in your ear. Cerumen is only in the outer part of your ear.
Cerumen helps protect and lubricate your ears and even has anti-bacterial properties. Yes, your ears have a self-cleaning system built right in.
If it becomes impacted deep in the ear canal to the point where it leads to an infection or diminished hearing is a concern, it’s likely because it was pushed back there with a cotton swab or some other device.
But get this: chewing or moving your jaw can help clear old ear wax from the ear. As your body produces new cerumen, it pushes the older stuff closer to the opening of the canal. It dries up, and the act of chewing can help move it out.
The key to your ear wax woes could be that simple: chew some gum each day in between meals. It won’t just freshen your breath or limit your appetite; it may help keep your ears clean and promote better hearing, too.
It’s also safe. Swabbing or sticking pointy objects in your ears can lead to:
- Cuts and scabs
- Ruptured eardrums
- Higher risk for significant irreversible hearing loss
If you feel like you have too much ear wax and it is causing a problem, you can talk to your doctor. You can also try using warm water and baby soap or mineral oil on a washcloth to clean the outside of your ears. This may help soften wax to come out.