Have you ever stared at the end of a cotton swab wondering what in the world earwax is and why we have it? According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (basically the authority on all things ears), earwax is "a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties." In other words, not only is earwax healthy and natural, it also provides a necessary and important bodily function. The earwax that lands on the end of your Q-tip is old earwax that has dried, flaked and failed to fall out.
You may be surprised to learn the American Academy of Otolaryngology does not recommend using Q-tips and other cotton swabs to clean the ears. This is because such instruments can actually push the wax deeper into the ear. This can cause hearing loss, ringing in the ears, foul odor and painful or itchy ears. Here are some of our favorite home remedies that do not involve cotton swabs:
1. Baby oil. The Mayo Clinic recommends softening the wax by carefully applying a few drops of baby oil using an eye dropper. You can also use mineral oil and glycerin in the same manner.
2. Warm water. Use a rubber-bulb syringe to gently apply warm water to the ear canal. To do this effectively, try tilting your head and pulling the outer ear up and back to straighten and expose the ear canal. Upon finishing treatment, tilt your head the opposite way to allow the water to drain.
3. Salt water. If warm water doesn't do it for you, try salt water. Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt in 1/4 cup warm water. Use an eye dropper to apply two or three drops directly into the ear. You can also soak a cotton ball in the salt water and gently dab it on your ear.
4. Salmon. A fatty acid deficiency may be the culprit behind excess wax buildup. If you suspect you are deficient in omega-3s, increase your intake of salmon, flaxseed and Brussels sprouts.
5. Baking soda. Mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 2 teaspoons water. As in the water example, tilt your head and apply using an eye dropper or cotton ball. Remember the importance of tilting your head the other way to allow the solution to drain. When you are finished, use a soft cloth to dry the ear and remove any ear wax that was dislodged in the process.
6. Acupressure. Pressing on the so-called Gallbladder 20 pressure point, found in two small dips on the back of the skull between the ear and spine, can alleviate ear congestion. For best results, use your thumbs, as shown in the below picture, to massage the pressure point in a circular motion for a full two minutes.
7. Garlic ear drops. Sticking a whole clove of garlic in the ears is an old folk remedy for curing a cold. Steep one minced clove of garlic in 2 tablespoons warm coconut oil for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic. Use an eye dropper to apply two drops of the home remedy to your ear. Wait 10 minutes, and then gently clean the ear.
8. Hydrogen peroxide. Women's Health Magazine claims this is the "only" way to remove ear wax. Apply two drops hydrogen peroxide to the ear 10 minutes prior to showering. If you are prone to excessive ear wax, repeat this home remedy once a month to maintain ear health and keep your ear canal free of excess wax.