How is earwax impaction treated?

Earwax can be removed in several ways; some of these methods can be done at home.

  • Cleaning the outside of the ear by wiping with a cloth.
  • Putting cerumenolytic solutions (solutions to dissolve wax) into the ear canal. These solutions include mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, peroxide-based ear drops (such as Debrox®), hydrogen peroxide, and saline solution.
  • Irrigating or syringing the ear. This involves using a syringe to rinse out the ear canal with water or saline, generally after the wax has been softened or dissolved by a cerumenolytic.
  • Removing the wax manually using special instruments. This should be done only by a health care provider who might use a cerumen spoon, forceps, or suction device.

Note: Irrigation should not be done by or to any persons who have, or suspect they have, a perforation (hole) in their eardrum or tubes in the affected ear(s).

Commercially available suction devices for home use (such as Wax-Vac) are not effective for most people and are therefore not recommended. Ear candles, which are advertised as a natural method to remove earwax, are not only ineffective but can cause injury to the ear. Injuries include burns to the external ear and ear canal and perforation of the eardrum.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/17/2017.


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