World Hearing Day held on the 3 March aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world.
With more than three million search results for natural ear cleaning solutions online it’s clear that many people know it’s a good idea to keep your ears clean. After all, blocked ears can feel uncomfortable and can cause temporary hearing loss.
Advice during World Hearing Day
Unfortunately, many of the ear cleaning and ‘cleansing’ methods that are available are not nearly as safe or effective as they seem. In fact, they are usually unnecessary and can do more harm than good, says Specsavers chief audiologist Nick Taylor.
This World Hearing Day, he clears up some misconceptions about cleaning your ears and offers advice on what really works.
Ear wax is good news
Nick explained: 'Ear wax is actually beneficial and helps to maintain the health of our ears. The wax traps unwanted dirt, bacteria and other microbes, preventing them from entering your ears and causing infections or irritation. Amazingly our ears biologically self-clean and old ear wax should naturally move towards the opening of your ear.’
Cotton buds are unsafe
Nick explains that although cottons buds may seem like a sensible ear cleaning tool, they can cause many problems: ‘While many believe that it is a good habit to clean your ears on a regular basis with cotton buds, this actually interferes with the ear’s natural cleaning process.
It pushes wax and debris further into the ear, which can cause build-up or a blockage of the ear canal. Attempting to clean your ears with cotton buds or similar items can lead to infections and potential long term damage.’
Ear candles are dangerous
Many alternative therapists claim that ear candling can remove ear wax, clear your sinuses and relieve headaches. Ear candles are hollow cones made of cloth that have been soaked in beeswax or paraffin. The candles are slightly tapered so that one end of the cone may be placed in the ear whilst the other it set alight.
The theory behind ear candling is that oxygen is drawn up the cone towards the flame, creating a vacuum which pulls excess wax from the ear, but Nick disagrees: ‘there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of the method.
‘If you feel blocked up because of fluid in the middle ear from a cold or your sinuses, it is impossible for the fluid to get through to the outer ear this way. Not only does the science not stack up, ear candles are clearly dangerous, potentially resulting in burns or infection. Ear candling is not a practice that we would recommend.’
What really works?
Nick continued: 'Despite what people might think, most people should never need to clean their ears. Problems arise when ear wax builds up as a result of using objects such as earphones, hearing aids and ear plugs.
‘If you’re worried there may be a build-up of wax the safest way to encourage the natural self-cleaning mechanism is to use an over-the-counter ear wax softening product. Simply place a couple of drops into the ear canal and wait a few minutes to allow it to soak in. If you repeat this process twice a day for five days the wax should loosen and the issue should resolve itself.
‘For those who may notice any of the symptoms of impacted wax, including sudden or partial hearing loss, tinnitus, a feeling of fullness in the ear or earache, we advise you to visit one of our audiologists in store who can help resolve the issue.’