Many people do not realize ear cleaning is an unnecessary habit. Your ears are self-cleaning and are designed to utilize earwax to remove debris from the inner canal to the outer ear. In most instances, a quick wipe with a dry or damp washcloth is enough to remove any leftover earwax from your outer ear. In the event you do experience earwax impactions, which are characterized by temporary hearing loss or tinnitus, a fullness sensation in the ear, earache, pain or discharge, you should schedule an appointment with an audiologist. Earwax impactions should be removed by a professional to avoid further damage to the ear, which is why you should avoid the following three methods of ear cleaning.

1. Cotton swabs

Although they’re a staple in many homes, cotton swabs aren’t actually very effective ways to clean your ears. This is because when you insert the cotton swab into your canal you’re actually pushing earwax further in, causing a possible impaction or your ear to produce more wax. In fact, there’s a chance that all of the loose earwax you attempt to remove with a cotton swab will simply fall back into your ear, creating more blockages. Additionally, cotton swabs inserted too far into the ear canal can cause perforated or ruptured eardrums.

2. Ear candling

Ear candling is an alternate method of cleaning your ears. It often involves lighting one end of a thin candle and placing the other end into your ear. It’s supposed to slowly melt the wax so that it draws out any earwax, grime and toxins, but it’s not actually an effective way to clean your ears. There’s a risk that you might damage your ears, and there’s also a risk that you’ll burn yourself, even if someone else does it. Some ear candle producers will mark their products as being safe and will even have false promises on the packaging, so don’t be tempted to buy into these claims because they can be dangerous and there are much safer options out there.

3. Ear scraping

You can purchase small metal or wooden “spoons” that can be used to scrape earwax out of your ear. This means that you don’t push the earwax back into your ear, but due to the shape and material of the ear scrapers, you can end up damaging your ear canal because you’re effectively scraping at the skin inside of your ear. Your ear is a very delicate structure that can be easily damaged. Ear scraping, especially when done vigorously, can be incredibly damaging to your ears and must be avoided. There are many simple and gentle methods of cleaning your ears, but these three common methods absolutely have to be avoided for the sake of your own ears! If you feel that your ears do need a good clean, then you’ll want to check with your audiologist first and have them determine if you need your ears cleaned professionally, or if there’s an at-home solution that can help.