Congestion of the outer ear canal due to a build up of ear wax is one of the most typical reasons for short-term hearing loss. If you’re rather confident that ear wax is the cause of your short-term hearing loss, you probably want to clean out your ears. The question is the best way to do this safely, and without damaging the sensitive tissues of your ear or your hearing.

For that reason, when sharing this list of tips, it’s a good idea to start with a reminder of things not to do. One important thing to avoid is trying to remove ear wax by inserting cotton swaps, Q-tips or any physical object into your ears; this may cause the ear wax to become compacted and exacerbate the problem. Another thing you shouldn’t do is use any product that sprays water under pressure (such as a WaterPik) directly into your ears; to do this risks perforating your eardrums. Also, if you know that you have a perforated eardrum or believe that you have an ear infection, do not try to clean your ears on your own, and see a hearing specialist instead. If you suspect an infection, common indications to watch for include fluid draining from the ears, ear pain, vomiting or diarrhea and fever.

For gentle ear cleaning at home, get a syringe or bulb of some kind at the pharmacy and a special rinse solution. Purchase the rinse solution (generally carbamide peroxide) at a local pharmacy or mix your own by mixing equal portions mineral oil, 3%-4% and glycerin.

To apply it, lay down on your side over a towel or lean over a sink and slowly squeeze the carbamide peroxide solution into one ear, without actually touching the interior of the ear with the syringe or bulb. Keep the solution in each ear for a few minutes giving it time to work on dissolving the wax.

The solution will soften and loosen the accumulated ear wax so that it can be washed out. Use lukewarm water to wash each ear and towel dry. As before, do not insert anything into the ear while drying. You can repeat this process twice per day for 2 to 3 days if your ears still feel obstructed. If the problem continues, seek advice from an audiologist or hearing specialist for assistance.

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