Why Does Earwax Exist?

What a lot of people don't realize is that earwax, or cerumen, is actually an entirely normal substance. It functions similarly to mucus in the nose, trapping dirt, dead skin cells, and dust, and keeping them away from the eardrum and inner ear. It also acts as a lubricating agent for your ear canal, which helps to prevent itching or dryness.

Why Does the Overproduction of Earwax Occur?

That said, the overproduction of earwax can and does occur. Most often, it's the result of the things we put in our ears. That means overusing headphones or earbuds, using cotton swabs in an attempt to clean the ears, or failing to properly clean your hearing aid.
There are also certain illnesses and genetic factors that can cause cerumen production to get a bit out of control. These may include swimming, narrow ear canals, ear infections, eczema, lupus, or osteomata. Generally, it's fairly easy to tell if your earwax is getting out of control.
Your ear may feel overly full, as though there's fluid sloshing around inside. There may be drainage or leakage from the ear or partial hearing impairment. You may also suffer from severe itching or a strange ringing in the ear.

How Should You Clean Your Ears At Home?

In severe cases of cerumen impaction, you should visit an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist. Attempting to fix the blockage yourself can potentially exacerbate the problem. That said, if you're determined to deal with your blockage on your own, here's what you can do. 

Note that if there are any signs of perforation, such as pain, pus, or bloody drainage, you should immediately visit a medical professional.
  1. Using an eyedropper, add several drops of a softening agent into the blocked ear. These are usually available at a pharmacy, but you can also substitute hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, mineral oil, or glycerin.
  2. Wait a few minutes for the earwax to be softened, then drain the softening agent through the outer ear. Gently dry the opening of your ear with a clean cloth.
  3. Repeat this process for several days.
  4. Run warm water or saline into your ear canal. Allow the solution to drain entirely, then dry your ear. 
In addition to avoiding the use of objects like cotton swabs, you should also avoid pseudoscientific practices like ear candling. Again, improper cleaning has the potential to cause severe and permanent damage to your ears.

If the method we've outlined above doesn't work, contact a professional.