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What is Ear Wax?

What is Ear Wax

Ear wax is a natural lubricant that is produced by your body to help clean and protect the ear canals. It is 20 – 50% fat and is produced by the wax glands located in the outer part of your ear, to moisturise, fight off infection and help keep dust, dirt and other debris from getting inside your ear.

If you are a person who doesn’t produce a lot of ear wax, you may be more prone to dry and itchy ears. If you produce too much ear wax which blocks up the whole ear canal, then you may notice ear discomfort, fullness and plugged sensation in the ear. If it is completely blocked, you can also experience hearing loss, tinnitus, itching, and sometimes ear odour.

How can I safely clean my ears?

Many people never have to get their ears cleaned as wax generally works its way out of the ear naturally through chewing and other head motions. However, when this doesn’t happen, earwax can become impacted and can affect your hearing and comfort.

The safest way to remove ear wax is to visit your local doctor or hearing clinician as they have various special instruments such as cerumen spoons, syringes, forceps, or suction devices, to clear any blockages in the ear canal. If you’re unable to get visit with your GP, the best practices at home are listed below:

Damp cloth

Try wiping the area with a warm, damp washcloth. A cotton tip may seem like the best idea at the time but this actually pushes wax deeper into the ear canal, causing more problems in the long run.
The rule you’ll hear from most doctors is that you should never put anything smaller than your elbow inside your ear!

Earwax softener

Pharmacies sell over-the-counter eardrops that soften wax. At Hearing Sense, we also sell a product called Clean Ears which many of our patients use and we love it because all the ingredients are natural.
Other over the counter solutions can contain:

  • mineral oil
  • baby oil
  • glycerine
  • peroxide
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • saline

Place the specified number of drops into your ear, wait a certain amount of time, and then drain or rinse out your ear. We recommend putting in the Clean Ears just before bed, and then in the morning – wipe your ear with a damp cloth to remove any excess. This is good practice if you have hearing aids, so it can work at night and keep your ears clear.


Your doctor will most likely use syringing to remove ear wax. In this process, they will gently rinse out the ear canal using water or a saline solution. This method is often more effective if you first use some type of wax softener a few days before you visit them. It’s best to warm the solution to your body temperature to avoid dizziness.

You shouldn’t attempt to irrigate your ears if:

  • you have diabetes
  • you have a compromised immune system (in other words generally unwell)
  • you may have a hole in your eardrum
  • you have grommets in your ear

Suctioning and curette

Your doctor or even ear specialist may use small hooks to scoop wax carefully out your ear whilst using a microscope to help them see clearly into your ear. A suction machine is often the best solution as it is very gentle and does not have any risks of water being left in your ear or rough pressure from syringing. Not all doctors have suction machines, so you may like to ask for a referral to an ear specialist if you would prefer this technique.

Cleaning wax out of your hearing aids

When the sound coming through your hearing aid appears weak or distorted this could be due to a wax build up within your hearing aid.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that your hearing aid is always clean and working to its full potential:

  1. A clean, soft cloth and cleaning brush is sometimes enough to remove any visible wax build-up in between regular visits for a full-scale cleaning. If problems persist then a specific cleaning tool will need to be used.
  2. Replace wax filters. The wax filter is the small white tip on the end of the speaker wire. Get the small black stick from the filter packet, press the empty end into the filter to pull it out and then put a fresh one in from the other end.
  3. Open the battery door and softly clean inside with a brush or cloth. You can also make sure microphones and speakers are brushed too to make sure nothing is stuck in them.
  4. If this still doesn’t work then bring them into Hearing Sense at any time and we can give you a full clean and service over the counter FREE of charge, no appointment necessary.

If you have any questions about wax, or would like one of our staff to have a quick look in your ears to see if you need cleaning, simply pop into our earwax removal clinic in Adelaide. 

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