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How to massage earwax out

Last update on May, 31, 2024

Earwax serves a very important purpose. Not only does it protect the ear by trapping dust and bacteria but it also helps clean and lubricate the ear canal. But what if you produce too much earwax? There are a variety of methods for removing excess earwax from the ear canal, including massage.

Why does earwax form?

Earwax, also called cerumen, is a waxy substance produced by the glands inside the ear canal. It protects and lubricates the delicate lining of the ear canal from harmful germs, dust and objects that could cause infections or damage. Your earwax might be wet and have a thick, sticky consistency or dry and flaky. Both are normal.

Why do I produce so much earwax?

There isn’t a “normal” amount of earwax. Rather, the amount produced varies from person to person. But, if you’ve ever wondered, “Why do I produce so much earwax?”, that may be a sign that you’re overproducing. That’s because you’re unlikely to notice a “normal amount” of earwax. Too much earwax could cause a number of symptoms, including:

It’s important to note that wearing hearing aids can lead to excessive earwax production for some people. Because hearing aids sit in the ear canal they can sometimes block the normal migration of earwax and can also stimulate the production of earwax.

Even if you tend to over produce earwax, it typically falls out on its own. However, overproduction can sometimes lead to a blockage. This happens when earwax builds up in the ear canal and becomes too hard to naturally migrate out of the ear.

Earwax blockage symptoms vary but can include everything from a feeling of fullness or discomfort in the ear to tinnitus and even hearing loss. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor or hearing care professional.  

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How to massage earwax out

In extreme cases, you’ll need professional help to remove an earwax blockage, but there are many ways to treat excess earwax at home. We’ll address some common home remedies below, including how to massage earwax out.

Step-by-step: How to massage impacted earwax out

  1. Wash your hands to prevent the introduction of germs.
  2. Dampen a clean towel or washcloth with warm water and wring it out.
  3. Hold the warm cloth over your ear for a few minutes. The warm compress can help loosen the earwax.
  4. Using one or two fingers, gently massage around the outer ear.
  5. Start along the base of your ear and work in a circular motion.
  6. Finally, pull on your earlobe gently while you open and close your jaw. This will help to work the wax along the ear canal. 

Remember, the massaging should only take place outside the ear canal. Never insert objects like cotton swabs into your ear canal. 

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Other ways to remove earwax blockages

For a minor earwax blockage, gentle massage can aid in clearing the wax. Combining massage with other removal methods is often even more effective.

Note: Don’t use oil in a clogged ear if you have an infection or perforated eardrums, wear hearing aids or have undergone ear surgery.

  1.  Lie down with the affected ear facing up.
  2. Gently place one or two drops of oil into the ear and softly massage the outer edge of the ear canal.
  3. Remain lying down for a few minutes post-application to allow the oil to penetrate.
  4. Keep a cloth nearby to wipe away any earwax that may drip out once you sit up.

You can use either olive oil or mineral oil for earwax. Both types of oil help to loosen and soften the wax, making it easier to remove. 

When considering how to remove earwax blockages, a warm cloth may be all you need.

  1. Run a clean washcloth under warm water and wring it out.
  2. Apply the cloth to the outside of your ear and hold it there for a minute or so.

The warm compress may be enough to loosen the wax and allow it to fall out on its own, or loosen it enough to rinse it. 

Earwax suctioning, also known as microsuctioning or ear vacuuming, is a method used to suck impacted earwax from the ear canal. The procedure is typically performed by a healthcare provider using a microscope and a small suctioning device. It’s been shown to be a safe, effective alternative to ear irrigation, making it suitable for individuals who wear hearing aids, or those with sensitive ears, perforated eardrums or previous ear surgeries.  

Earwax blockage drops are medicated drops used to dissolve hardened earwax, making it easier to clear a blockage. Drops typically contain active ingredients like carbamide peroxide, glycerin or mineral oil that work by softening, loosening or dissolving the wax. 

Using a saline earwax blockage solution to loosen impacted wax and release a blockage is also known as ear irrigation, and can be performed in a doctor’s office or at home by flushing out the ear canal with a saline solution. You can purchase irrigation kits that include saline solution or just the saline solution, which is a mixture of water and salt that has been sterilized to prevent infection, on its own.

  1. Using a cotton ball or washcloth, slowly drip the solution into your ear.
  2. Let it sit in your ear canal for a few minutes while it works to loosen the wax.
  3. Then, tilt your head and allow the wax to drain out.

Always use caution when introducing liquids into your ears; avoid doing it altogether if you already have an existing infection, eardrum damage or have had surgery on your ears.

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Treatment methods to avoid for earwax blockage

When dealing with earwax buildup or blockage, it’s important to avoid certain methods that could make the blockage worse or damage your ears. Common questions like “Are cotton swabs bad for ears?” often arise. You may ask the same question about other objects, like paper clips, bobby pins or even your own fingers.  It is never advisable to put any object inside your ear, including cotton swabs and your fingers. Inserting objects into your ear can push the wax back and cause the impaction to worsen.

Back to the question, “Are cotton swabs bad for ears?The answer is yes if used inside your ears. It can be dangerous to insert cotton swabs into your ears for a few reasons:

  • You may push earwax back into the ear, causing impaction or blockage.
  • If inserted far enough, a cotton swab could cause damage to your eardrum, even rupturing it.
  • Tiny cotton fibers could be left behind and cause irritation.
  • You may push bacteria or debris deep into the ear, increasing the chance of infection. 

The only safe way to use swabs in this scenario is to clean the outside of your ear. 

Your own fingers can pose similar risks as cotton swabs if you attempt to use them to clean your ears. Keep your digits out of your ear to avoid pushing more wax, bacteria or debris deep into the ear canal. 

When to see a healthcare provider

Earwax removal is a common procedure for most ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists. If you experience any of the symptoms laid out in this article that may be associated with earwax pain, make an appointment with your healthcare provider or a hearing specialist—especially if home remedies aren’t working. Your provider can also offer advice for treating chronic issues related to the overproduction of earwax.

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Experiencing hearing loss symptoms?

If you are experiencing hearing loss symptoms—whether or not they are related to excessive earwax—a Miracle-Ear hearing care professional can help. Find a Miracle-Ear near you and start down the path toward improved hearing today.

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