Aussie Deaf Kids logo

Ear wax management

Explore this section

Earwax (or cerumen) is produced in the ear canal. Cerumen is present in two varieties – wet and dry. Dry cerumen is usually white and flakey. Wet cerumen tends to vary in colour from yellow to brown and may even resemble a colour similar to blood.

In most cases, ears are self-cleaning of cerumen because of the shape and direction of the skin, which directs excess cerumen towards the open end of the ear canal. Once at the opening it can be simply cleaned with a damp cloth.

Some individuals may have poor ‘self-cleaning’ ear canals or have excessive cerumen production. If hearing aids are worn, ear moulds block the ear canal preventing excess cerumen from escaping. In these cases, wax can either be removed by a doctor or physician or can be softened with a wax removal liquid or olive oil dropped into the ear. It is not advised to insert ANY item such as cotton buds, q-tips or pointed object into the ear canal to clean excess cerumen as this can damage the skin lining of the canal, perforate the tympanic membrane and/or cause a permanent hearing loss.

DO NOT insert foreign objects such as cotton buds or hairpins into the ear canal.

Ear candles are a popular and inexpensive alternative health treatment sold for wax removal. A hollow candle is burned with one end in the ear canal with the intent of creating negative pressure and drawing the wax from the ear. Candling is both ineffective and dangerous and should not be used to remove excess wax.

DO NOT use ear candles for ear wax removal. They are ineffective and may result in serious injury.

If any foreign object is inserted into or enters the ear canal and gets lodged, for example small beads, stones or even insects, it is advised to seek treatment from a doctor or physician for removal. Do NOT attempt to remove the item as this may cause damage to the skin lining of the canal, perforate the tympanic membrane and/or cause a permanent hearing loss.

DO see your local doctor or physician if excess wax is present or a foreign object is lodged in the ear canal.

Information provided by Jason Fenton
BA (Linguistics), MClinAud, MAudSA.
Reproduced with permission.
Date: July 2010

Last updated: 3rd Apr, 2024




Skip to content