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Eye and Ear Problems


Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Earwax is a protective secretion that filters dust and keeps the ear clean. Normally, earwax is liquid, self-draining, and does not cause problems. Children have a lot of earwax, but earwax production seems to taper off as children grow older.

Occasionally, the wax will build up, harden, and cause some hearing loss or discomfort. Poking at the wax with cotton swabs, fingers, or other objects will only further compact the wax against the eardrum. When wax is tightly packed, professional help is needed to remove it. You can handle most earwax problems by avoiding cotton swabs and following the Home Treatment tips. You should be concerned only if the earwax causes ringing in the ears, a full feeling in the ears, some hearing loss, or vertigo (See When to Call a Health Professional).

Home Treatment

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Home Treatment is not appropriate if you suspect that the eardrum is ruptured or there is drainage from the ear that looks like pus or contains blood.

  • Soften and loosen the earwax with warm (body temperature) mineral oil. Place 2 drops of mineral oil in the ear twice a day for 1 or 2 days.

  • Once the wax is loose and soft, all that is usually needed to remove the wax from the ear canal is the spray from a warm, gentle shower. Direct the water into the ear, and then tip the head to let the earwax drain out.

  • If the warm mineral oil and shower do not work, use a nonprescription wax softener, followed by gentle flushing with a bulb ear syringe each night for 1 to 2 weeks. Make sure the flushing solution is body temperature. Putting cool or hot fluids in the ear may cause dizziness.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If Home Treatment does not work and the wax build-up is hard, dry, and compacted.

  • If earwax is causing ringing in your ears, a full feeling in your ears, or hearing loss.

  • If earwax build-up occurs with other problems such as nausea or difficulty with balance.

  • If an earwax problem develops in a person who has a ruptured eardrum or ear tubes (tympanostomy tubes).


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