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Healthy Tips

Quick Dose: How to Safely Clean Your Ears

Your ears are self-cleaning.

It’s normal to have wax in your ear canal. Ear wax cleans, lubricates and protects the ears.

When you use a cotton swab, you can push wax further toward your ear drum, which can cause buildup over time. If you suspect wax is impacting your hearing, see an audiologist or ear, nose and throat physician, who can determine if you need to have the wax removed. This is done with water, suction and sometimes a tool like forceps.

Everyone has different ear canal physiology. While some people must have their wax removed every six months, most people never need to worry about it.

Avoid ear candling. It’s dangerous. There’s a risk of burning the ear canal or eardrum. If you feel the need to clean, use a cotton swab around the outer edges of your ear, but avoid the ear canal.

— Laura Buskirk, AuD, Clinical Audiologist, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group

Northwestern Medicine Ear, Nose and Throat