Ear Wax Removal – Dealing With A Clogged Ear

I’ve recently – like this very morning – had ear wax removed from a clogged ear.

Foolishly I had been poking around in my ear with a cotton bud and managed to push the wax further in. So I made an appointment with my doctor and had my ear syringed. Cost me NZ$17.

Now there is plenty of advise on the internet on do-it-yourself ear wax removal but honestly syringing your ear is not something you should do yourself. You can perforate your ear drum if you do it incorrectly. Or spread infection from the outer ear into the inner ear.

Medical literature abounds with statements such as:

“Wax is a normal substance and should be left undisturbed by the patient and physician unless removal is needed for accurate examination.”

It seems, and again I’m taking this from medical reports that the wax in your ear is part of a self cleansing process. The wax slowly moves towards the outer entrance, assisted in part by things like eating (movement of the jaw helps) where it can then be removed. But as soon as we start poking and prodding at it with things like cotton buds or Q-tips (GUILTY!) then we upset that natural process and actually cause it to impact.

My doctor was training a med student so I was lucky enough to get a walk through on the process.

The problem with having a clogged ear is two-fold:

  • it reduces hearing
  • can cause infection

The doctor looks inside your ear with an otoscope and if your ear canal is clean and clear can see the ear drum. I stress this because I think we tend to believe that the ear drum if tucked away with many twists and turns before we get to it – not so.

The ear drum is more accessible than anyone with a Q-tips in their hand should want!

So the doctor could see that my right ear was completely clear but the left ear had a plug of wax almost covering the ear drum. That was the cause of my deafness.

Entirely my own fault, of course, because I had pushed it back onto the drum with the cotton bud when I was scratching my itchy ear!

Did you know that the reason we often cough when our ear is being examined or if you’re poking it yourself is because branches of the tenth nerve (Arnold’s nerve) are stimulated and they are the nerves responsible for coughing.

The temperature of the water for ear wax removal is critical and should be measured with a thermometer. Syringing your ear with water that is either too warm or too cold will cause dizziness, the possibility of passing out and sometimes nausea.

The doctor checked my ear between each syringe and warned the med student that the minute you see that you have cleared the blockage “STOP”. Don’t syringe any more.

Not all doctors agree with syringing ears to remove wax. My own doctor’s view was to do it if necessary but no more than necessary.

Interestingly, different races of people have different ear wax! Yes really!

Most people (including myself) have what is called the wet type of ear wax and this is that brownish moist ear wax. Others such as many Asian people and Native Americans have a dry type which is gray and flaky.

You can see professional ear cleaners on the streets in China and other Asian countries where they use ear picks to remove this dry type ear wax. Videos of the process make it look very relaxing but after my own episode with the cotton bud I don’t think I would indulge.

This video show an Indian man who works daily in his profession of ear cleaner. He has great views on life. Note how delicate and gentle his hands are.