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Congestion of the outer ear canal as the result of a build up of ear wax is among the most prevalent reasons for temporary hearing loss. Those who have experienced this, and experienced a reduced ability to hear, clearly want to find out how to clean out their ears to avoid it. Even so, you must clean the ears correctly and safely, or else you may cause lasting injury to your ears.

In this case it is better to start with a few reminders on what not to do when trying to remove ear wax. Don’t insert any physical objects into your ear. Whether it’s a cotton swap, Q-tip or other tool, you are very likely to make the situation worse by further compressing the ear wax if you go poking around in your ear. One more thing you should never do is attempt to use any device that injects water under pressure (such as a WaterPik) directly into your ears; doing this risks damaging your eardrums. Also, if you know that you have a damaged eardrum or think that you have an ear infection, do not try to clean your ears at home, and see a professional instead. Indications of ear infections include ear pain, vomiting or diarrhea, fluid draining from the ears and fever.

To clean your ears gently at home, all you need is a bulb or syringe, which you can buy at any pharmacy, and a solution with which to safely rinse out your ears. Such rinse solutions (labeled carbamide peroxide) can be bought at pharmacies; you can also create your own by mixing equal measures of 3-4%, glycerin and mineral oil.

To use the carbamide peroxide solution, gently squeeze the solution into the ear using the bulb or syringe. It often works best to lay on your side and have a towel on hand to catch drips. Try to avoid touching the ear with the syringe or bulb if possible. Allow the solution to stay in your ear for a couple of minutes (or, if you use hydrogen peroxide, until you no longer hear bubbling), and then repeat the process with the other side.

The solution will loosen and soften the accrued ear wax so that it can be washed out. Use warm water to wash each ear and towel dry. Again, don’t insert anything into the ear when drying. If your ears still feel obstructed, repeat the process a few times per day for 2 or 3 days. Talk to your an audiologist or hearing specialist if the issue continues to persist.