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Earwax Buildup - New Guidelines

Without earwax, our ears would be dry, itchy, and prone to infection. Earwax is naturally produced by the body to clean, protect, and lubricate the ears. But too much earwax can lead to earaches, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, itching, and coughing.

People think they're preventing earwax buildup by using cotton swabs, but they're actually impacting the earwax further into the ear canal and contributing to the problem.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery has updated its best practices for diagnosis and treatment of earwax. Recommendations include the following:

  • Avoid overcleaning your ears, as this can lead to irritation in the ear canal, ear infection, and earwax buildup
  • Do not put cotton swabs, hair pins, toothpicks, and other small items in your ears; doing so can damage the eardrum, ear canal, or even dislocate the hearing bones
  • Avoid using ear candles; they can damage the eardrum and ear canal, and there is insufficient evidence to suggest they are effective for removing excess earwax
  • Seek medical attention if you are experiencing ear pain, ear fullness, or hearing loss and you are unsure whether these symptoms are caused by earwax buildup. Ear drainage or bleeding may signal other problems
  • Ask your clinician about how you can safely treat earwax buildup at home.

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