How to safely remove ear wax at home

Author thumbnail Kirsten Ellis  |  Published 28 June 2023  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 3 mins read

A jar of cotton swabs.

Ear wax: we all have it, but when it builds up, so too does the temptation to ‘quickly remove it yourself at home’. 

Well, we’re here to tell you that contrary to popular belief, removing ear wax at home is NOT safe!

What is ear wax?

Ear wax, or as it’s scientifically known, cerumen, is produced by our ears as our natural protective barrier against foreign bodies, such as bacteria. Usually, our ear wax is very good at self-cleaning, and more often than not works its way out of the ear canal of its own accord.

There are times however when our ear wax builds up or overproduces which is when an ear wax removal might be necessary.

A man holding his ear to listen.

 What are the signs and symptoms of excessive ear wax?

You could be experiencing a build-up of ear wax if you have noticed any of the following:

  • Ear discomfort or a feeling of fullness
  • Reduced hearing or muffled sounds
  • Itching or ringing in the ears

The risks of at-home ear wax removal

Cleaning out or attempting to remove ear wax yourself at home poses several risks and is something that a medical professional would never advise. These risks include:

  • Further impacting your ear wax. This will cause your blockage to worsen and potentially greaten your symptoms.
  • Risk of infection. Unlike a professional environment, any equipment you use at home will likely not be sterile, which poses a big risk of causing infection.
  • Permanent hearing loss. In worst cases, at-home ear wax removal can cause permanent damage to your hearing. Using removal tools inside your ear, if not used correctly, can damage or perforate your ear drum, which has a significant impact on your hearing. 

Safe methods for ear wax removal

Olive oil and olive tree leaves.

Olive oil ear drops

Olive oil has long been associated with clearing out your ear wax, and for good reason! However, we don’t recommend using olive oil straight out of the bottle, our recommendation would be medicated olive oil ear drops. On the advice of a medical professional, olive oil ear drops can be used to remove small amounts of wax build-up. This is because the drops help to soften your ear wax, encouraging its natural flow out of the ear canal. 

Olive oil ear drops are also often recommended by hearing care professionals before an ear wax removal appointment to make the removal process easier. However, you should not use them if you have previously been told not to by a medical professional.

A wax removal clinician using water irrigation on a patient.

Professional ear wax removal

To ensure ear wax is completely removed in the safest way possible, we recommend seeking the help of a medical professional. Whilst the service is available on the NHS, wait times can be very long, and a lot of GP practices no longer offer it, which is why many people prefer to use a private service for their ear wax removal. 

Here at The Hearing Care Partnership, our hearing care professionals will use one of a variety of methods to remove excess ear wax, such as microsuction, water irrigation or manual removal. They will also conduct a hearing check following a successful removal to make sure you are hearing as you should. 

 Book an ear wax removal

If you suspect you have a build-up of ear wax and would like to book an ear wax removal appointment, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

You can book an appointment at your nearest THCP practice by calling us on 0800 52 00 546, or book online.