A buildup of earwax can be a painful experience that often leads to tinnitus, hearing loss or dizziness. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available to remove excess earwax. One popular method is the use of hydrogen peroxide. But is this safe?
Known as cerumen, earwax is a naturally occurring substance produced by the glands in the ear. Earwax protects the ear by trapping dead skin, debris and germs from entering the body and helps to keep the ear moist, which prevents the ear from becoming dry or itchy.
This waxy substance is naturally self-cleaning. Earwax is produced and is moved through the ear as you move your lower jaw while eating or speaking.
Too much earwax can lead to a blockage known as cerumen impaction. Approximately 12 million people in the United States visit their doctor for a problem related to earwax with eight million requiring a procedure to remove their excess earwax.
Causes of excess earwax include:
- Structural abnormalities of the ear canal
- Attempting to clean the ear with cotton swabs
- Wearing hearing aids or in-ear headphones
Use of Hydrogen Peroxide
Available at Ladd Family Pharmacy and most big box retailors as over-the-counter ear drops, hydrogen peroxide can be used to soften earwax, causing it to fall out of the ear more easily.
The process is simple. Squeeze a few drops into the infected ear two to three times a day. Fill an ear syringe/bulb with lukewarm warm water and gently squeeze the water into the ear. Turn your head to the side to let all the water flow out of the ear. Experts recommend performing this procedure over a sink or bathtub.
Side effects of hydrogen peroxide include:
- A bubbling or fizzing sensation
- Bitter taste
- Ear pain
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ear
These side effects are usually only temporary. If used incorrectly, hydrogen peroxide can lead to skin irritation or blistering, inflammation in the ear canal and earache.
If you have an ear infection or a damaged eardrum, the use of hydrogen peroxide is not recommended. Never attempt to remove earwax with a foreign object such as a cotton swab or bobby pin. This will just push the earwax further into the ear and risks permanent damage.
To learn more about the treatment options available for excess earwax or to schedule an appointment with a professional, contact SW Idaho ENT today.