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By Charmain Leek, RHAD, MPPM 

Never put anything smaller than your elbows in your ears – TRUE! 

Most of us do not know what our ear canals look like and we don’t always realise how fragile they are, or the damage we can do when simply trying to remove ear wax and clean inside them. 
This guide is designed to explain why we need to be careful when we clean inside ears (ours or someone else’s), and how to clean ears without causing damage. 

When performing ear wax removal, I always use a video Otoscope 

This helps me to show my patients the before and after image of their ear canals. 
Normally your ear canal should have 2 bends in it... why? To stop you damaging your ear drum. 
The ear canal in an adult is approximately 2.5cm. When I’m carrying out ear wax removal I wear Loupes, magnifying lenses to give me a clear safe vision of the ear canal to ensure safe controlled removal of ear wax. 

Following an ear wax removal treatment 

I always inspect the ear canals to make sure all debris has been removed. 
In many situations I can easily see the ear drum (tympanic membrane) just by lifting the pinna, so in these instances there is a relatively straight ear canal which could very easily be damaged when inserting a cotton bud to try and clean ears. 
A cotton bud is 8cm long, and when you hold a cotton bud that takes away 2cm, so you are left with 6cm of the cotton bud to place in a 2.5cm ear canal. 

Damage that can be caused when cleaning ears 

I often talk about one of my patients’ sons who informed me he only had hearing in one ear. Knowing that this was quite rare, I asked “how come?” 
I learned that, when cleaning his ears as a teenager, he had a cotton bud in his ear when his girlfriend gave him a hug. The cotton bud was pushed directly into his cochlea and the whole ear was damaged. At that point I went a bit wobbly and pale! 
He spent two months in hospital and he said he had never experienced such pain in his life. 

How to clean ears safely 

So, the old wife’s tale is very true! We advise against using a cotton bud to clean ears. 
For safe ear wax removal I recommend using olive oil to soften the ear wax, and then a clean flannel dampened with warm water to gently wipe around the outside area of the ear. 
If ears still feel blocked, then an ear wax removal treatment (book EWR Treatment here) is the best way to safely clean inside your ears. 
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Clear Hear Independent Audiology & Hearing Care Clinic Address: Barbourne Medical Centre, 44 Droitwich Road, Worcester WR3 7LH / Clear Hear Ltd / Registration No: 5194293 / FREEFONE: 08007318545 / Email: 
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