Obstruction of the outer ear canal due to a build up of ear wax is among the most typical causes of short-term hearing loss. Individuals who have encountered this, and suffered a diminished ability to hear, generally want to know how to clean their ears to avoid it. However, you need to clean them safely and correctly, otherwise you could cause lasting injury to your ears.

To emphasize health and safety when cleaning your ears, let’s begin with what not to do. Avoid using cotton swabs or any other foreign objects that you insert into your ears, which can cause the ear wax to become even more compressed. Likewise, don’t use any kind of device that shoots a stream of pressurized water into your ears, such as a WaterPik, because this can perforate the ear drum. Lastly, if you know that you have a punctured eardrum, leave cleaning your ears to a specialist. The same holds true if you suspect you have an ear infection. If you think you might have an infection, common indications to watch for include vomiting or diarrhea, ear pain, fever and fluid draining from the ears.

For gentle ear cleaning at home, all you need is a bulb or syringe of some kind at the pharmacy and a special rinse solution. Such rinse solutions (often called carbamide peroxide) are available at drug stores; you can also make your own solution by mixing equal measures of 3%-4%, mineral oil and glycerin.

To make use of the carbamide peroxide solution, gently squeeze the solution into the ear with the bulb or syringe. It often works best to lay down on your side and have a towel on hand to catch any drips. Avoid touching the ear with the syringe or bulb if you can. The solution takes time to work, so keep it in each ear for a couple minutes, and then repeat for the other ear.

After the ear wax has been softened and loosened by the solution, wash each ear again with lukewarm water, and then dry your outer ears lightly with a towel. If the obstruction continues, repeat this process of cleaning your ears twice a day for 2 or 3 days. Check with your an audiologist or hearing specialist if the problem continues.