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#1
Old 08-22-2013, 11:56 AM
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Is earwax cleaning a scam?

I figured you guys would be the best to ask about this; google throws up mixed answers.

My ear ear has felt somewhat blocked the past 6 months or so. I'm fairly prone to wax (ain't the human body charming), and I'd feel a bit like a twat going to the doctor about this. I did a search but couldn't find anything.

I hear that many of the supposed ear unblocking techniques that naturopaths espouse ("ear candling") just create the illusion of expelling wax, it's really just some frothy candlewax material.

Ok, I probably should just ask by doc about this. But it'd be interesting to hear your thoughts.
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#2
Old 08-22-2013, 12:09 PM
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See your doctor. "Stuffiness" in your ear can have a number of causes other than impacted ear wax. Even if it is, a physician has tools and techniques to unplug your ear canal safely (mostly a gentle warm water spray IIRC).
#3
Old 08-22-2013, 12:12 PM
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Hydrogen peroxide, warm water and an ear syringe. Cheap, easy to get and it works.

Last edited by jayjay; 08-22-2013 at 12:13 PM.
#4
Old 08-22-2013, 12:14 PM
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Pharmacies sell a peroxide-based ear wax removal kit that's effective. (edit- jinx!)

Ear candles, not so much.
wikipedia quackwatch

Last edited by aNewLeaf; 08-22-2013 at 12:14 PM.
#5
Old 08-22-2013, 12:21 PM
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Yeah, you put some drops of stuff in your ear, lay on your side for about ten minutes to give it a chance to fizzle, then squirt water in to clean the fizzy stuff and partially-dissolved wax out. It's simple and effective.
#6
Old 08-22-2013, 12:45 PM
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Yup, ear wax removal kits you can get from your local pharmacy work great. Been using them once or twice a year most of my adult life.

Worst case scenario you have to do the drops, wait, wash, repeat.

Move your jaw around or rub the soft area below and behind your ears to work the drops down past any air bubbles.

Don't pay anyone to do anything.
#7
Old 08-22-2013, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Hydrogen peroxide, warm water and an ear syringe. Cheap, easy to get and it works.
Yup.

I've actually seen a doctor about this maybe 6 months ago. My ears are super sensitive to earbuds, but because I'm an idiot, I keep wearing them. I'm actually OK if I keep it to just 20-30 minutes every few days, but occasionally I get on hour+ long calls for work, and it definitely causes problems. So much so that I managed to block up my ear to the point that I couldn't hear a damn thing.

Luckily, I had an appointment to see my doc for my bi-yearly checkup the next day, so I had him check my ears. "Yup," he says, "they're full of wax. You shouldn't use those earbuds." Yeah, doc, I know. Then I was expecting him to get out the super-dooper-doctor earwax-cleany-thingy, but no. He told me to go home, lay down, fill my ear with hydrogen peroxide and lay on my side for 20 minutes, then wash it out with warm water.

Worked great. So great that earlier this week, when I once again managed to block up my ears from using the stupid earbuds, I did it again and now I can hear again.

And yes, I now have a super-duper nifty new headset that I can wear instead of the earbuds, because lying on my side for 20 minutes with hydrogen peroxide in my ear is no damn fun.
#8
Old 08-22-2013, 01:32 PM
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Try the home remedies mentioned here, and if they don't work, see a doctor. They can safely remove earwax impactions, which can lead to hearing loss and infection.

My ex-boyfriend referred to it as an "audio enema".
#9
Old 08-22-2013, 01:37 PM
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My docs told me that lots of people come in periodically to get their ears cleaned. I felt like an idiot going into the doc as well but they said don't worry about it and just make an appointment. Next time I will probably ask to see the PA or nurse.
#10
Old 08-22-2013, 01:43 PM
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There are places in my area you can go to sit in a chair and have some (non-medical) person dig wax out of your ear. It gets the job done, but it sounds like the clients go mainly because they love the tingly feeling of someone poking around in their ears. And maybe also that the technicians are young women.
#11
Old 08-22-2013, 01:47 PM
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If you have a CVS drug store in your area, you can pop in there for ear wax removal. Those are staffed by nurse practitioners. Walgreens probably also does it in their clinics.

The CVS website says $79 for the procedure. However, my dad was just told by the nurse at the Minute Clinic he just went to that if you use drops to soften the wax at home for a day or two, they'll clean you out for free. No idea if he heard them right (his ears are plugged up! Ha!) but that's what he says they said.
#12
Old 08-22-2013, 01:57 PM
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p.s. DO NOT use ear candling! All it does is make money for people who produce those candles, and can result in burns if the wax drips on you.

I did clinical rotations on an Indian reservation, and this tribe had a genetic tendency towards thick, profuse earwax. We had a book where we could describe our experiences, and one medical student said, "The kids here do not secrete cerumen. They secrete limestone" and something all parents can relate to: "Childhood is a state of amoxicillin deficiency."

#13
Old 08-22-2013, 02:22 PM
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eye syringe with solution at major drug stores. works for soft and not rock hard wax.

if you have hardened wax that you can't get out then it can be cleaned at a clinic. it is easier when a trained person can do the flush for hard wax.
#14
Old 08-22-2013, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
It gets the job done, but it sounds like the clients go mainly because they love the tingly feeling of someone poking around in their ears. And maybe also that the technicians are young women.
What sort of a place? I like young women and tingly ears...
#15
Old 08-22-2013, 02:23 PM
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The Master Speaks!
#16
Old 08-22-2013, 02:26 PM
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Otex ear drops, leave it in for about 20 minutes and make sure you drain well. Repeat a few times and you won't have any ear wax left. If that doesn't work, then go to the doctor. (standard IANAD disclaimer)
#17
Old 08-22-2013, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aNewLeaf View Post
What sort of a place? I like young women and tingly ears...
I guess I mis-remembered; apparently this has not made it to the US yet. But if you're ever in Vietnam: here.
#18
Old 08-22-2013, 02:47 PM
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I went to the doctors to have it done last week, and I needed it too as the ear had been blocked for days despite dripping olive oil into it (they don't favour peroxide or propriety substances based on it these days as it can damage the eardrum). If you've had it done before, the odds increase that you'll have to have it done again. I've had it several times now.
#19
Old 08-22-2013, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mk VII View Post
(they don't favour peroxide or propriety substances based on it these days as it can damage the eardrum).
Hmm, my doctor likes peroxide just fine. Or maybe our merkin eardrums are just stronger than your pansy English eardrums.
#20
Old 08-22-2013, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by EdwardLost View Post
I guess I mis-remembered; apparently this has not made it to the US yet. But if you're ever in Vietnam: here.
Well, if I'm ever in Vietnam and have some extra cash, I'll think about it.

From the linked article:

Quote:
In fact, the ear has a G-spot, said Dr. Todd Dray,
#21
Old 08-22-2013, 02:54 PM
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Just a warning. If the ear cleaning at home doesn't work, see a doctor. I had a full sensation in my ear too, and my ears were actually squeaky clean -- the problem was pseudotumor cerebri (too much fluid around the brain). Could have been something even more serious.
#22
Old 08-22-2013, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aNewLeaf View Post
Well, if I'm ever in Vietnam and have some extra cash, I'll think about it.

From the linked article:
Quote:
In fact, the ear has a G-spot, said Dr. Todd Dray,

Rule 34: it's not just for the internet anymore.
#23
Old 08-22-2013, 04:40 PM
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I once went deaf for some time in my left ear. On examination, a doctor found that there was a big lump of earwax up against the eardrum, preventing it from doing its thing. Money was very tight, at that point, so I didn't feel I could afford to pay the doctor the $80 he wanted to clean it out; so I resorted to all sorts of do-it-yourself attempts, using various chemicals. I started, of course, by using Debrox, which is a product made specifically for this purpose; but it didn't seem to be able to budge this blockage at all. I ended up trying all sorts of other various oils and solvents that I had on hand, the vast majority of which are probably generally a bad idea to use this way. What finally seemed to do the trick was a chemical that is supposed to be used for degreasing car engines. I can't say for sure that this did it by itself, or whether it only worked because previous chemicals had sufficiently loosened the wax to the point that whatever I tried next was going to get it out.

The best advice that I would offer is to make regular proper use of something like Debrox, to keep the wax from accumulating to the point that more drastic measures will be needed to get it out.

Also, look into a device called the Ototek Loop, for physically scraping out wax that isn't in too deep to be beyond its reach.

And as others have already said, stay away from “ear candling”. It is a potentially dangerous, and otherwise worthless scam. There is no realistic possibility of any benefit from it, and a significant danger of harm.
#24
Old 08-22-2013, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
Also, look into a device called the Ototek Loop, for physically scraping out wax that isn't in too deep to be beyond its reach.
I will occasionally make my own version of that, from a paperclip. Straighten it out on one end, crimp the loop on the other end, and go to town (CAREFULLY!).
#25
Old 08-22-2013, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mk VII View Post
I went to the doctors to have it done last week, and I needed it too as the ear had been blocked for days despite dripping olive oil into it ...
How would olive oil help? It's just another lipid, not a solvent of any kind.
#26
Old 08-22-2013, 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
I will occasionally make my own version of that, from a paperclip. Straighten it out on one end, crimp the loop on the other end, and go to town (CAREFULLY!).
Or a bobby pin. No modifications needed.
#27
Old 08-22-2013, 05:01 PM
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oils are solvents for fatty/greasy/waxy substances on an all depends basis.
#28
Old 08-22-2013, 05:14 PM
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Medical advice is best suited to IMHO.

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#29
Old 08-22-2013, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Athena View Post

And yes, I now have a super-duper nifty new headset that I can wear instead of the earbuds, because lying on my side for 20 minutes with hydrogen peroxide in my ear is no damn fun.
Speak for yourself, I like the tingly bubbles, and the 'swirlies' I get.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nearwildheaven View Post
My ex-boyfriend referred to it as an "audio enema".
*snicker*
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluiddruid View Post
J my ears were actually squeaky clean.
Squeeky clean isn't a term I thought I would hear about ears
#30
Old 08-22-2013, 05:38 PM
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All those so-called earwax softeners don't do squat for me. As I am evidently one of the world's most prolific producers of earwax, I've decided that it's a lot less aggravation to just go into the doc about once every four months and get the ears hosed out. Takes about 10 minutes, and except for the $15 copay, costs nothing because of insurance.
#31
Old 08-22-2013, 05:59 PM
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I use a 1:1:2 mixture of vinegar water & peroxide. See this thread to see how effective it is.

The most important part is to warm the mixture up to body temperature.
#32
Old 08-22-2013, 06:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
What finally seemed to do the trick was a chemical that is supposed to be used for degreasing car engines.

...

And as others have already said, stay away from “ear candling”. It is a potentially dangerous...
No comment necessary.
#33
Old 08-22-2013, 07:28 PM
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Sort of, well actually pretty gross: I once had such a dense build up of wax that debrox only made it worse. It only desolved the top layer, but trapped the rest, so I was stuck with a huge piece of wax AND a build up fluid in my ear. It was so bad it hurt and I couldn't hear. It took forever for the doctor to flush it out. I ended up soaked, too. The next time I had it done, I brought my raincoat. Seriously.

(Yeah, I've got waxy ears. Ugh! Fortunately I haven't had to have them flushed in ages)
#34
Old 08-22-2013, 11:53 PM
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Here is a take on the importance of cleaning out ears by Johnny Earwax and Principal Schwinger and the crew of The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

Last edited by Voyager; 08-22-2013 at 11:53 PM.
#35
Old 08-23-2013, 02:34 AM
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Forget hydrogen peroxide. According to my GP's advice and my own personal experience the best solution to wax buildup is the liquid stool softener Colace or one of the generic versions thereof (i.e., docusate sodium). Just drip into the offending ear and wait a few minutes. Then fill your irrigation syringe with warm water and have at it. Unlike HP the Colace will soften hard wax. If you have particularly problematic ears a drop in each one before bed will keep plugs from forming in the first place.

It's cheap too.
#36
Old 08-23-2013, 07:04 AM
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I've had to have my ears flushed a couple of times. Nowadays I let warm shower water spray into my ears during my shower every day, and use a Q tip to clean them out. This takes care of most of the wax. Occasionally I have to use a bobby pin to remove the wax, either with or without using a commercial wax softening preparation. I've also put a little astringent on a Q tip and used that to help get wax out. My doctor thinks that my outer ear canals are quite clean.
#37
Old 08-23-2013, 08:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLRogers View Post
Forget hydrogen peroxide. According to my GP's advice and my own personal experience the best solution to wax buildup is the liquid stool softener Colace or one of the generic versions thereof (i.e., docusate sodium). Just drip into the offending ear and wait a few minutes. Then fill your irrigation syringe with warm water and have at it. Unlike HP the Colace will soften hard wax. If you have particularly problematic ears a drop in each one before bed will keep plugs from forming in the first place.

It's cheap too.
I was just stopping in to recommend this. It's what I use on my patients in the ER.
#38
Old 08-23-2013, 08:33 AM
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I get my ears cleaned out every year as part of my annual check-in. "Audio enema" -- heh! It's true -- when the big clump finally gives up its toehold it feels great.
#39
Old 08-23-2013, 09:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
I will occasionally make my own version of that, from a paperclip. Straighten it out on one end, crimp the loop on the other end, and go to town (CAREFULLY!).
I have one of those on my desk right now. And I thought I was the only one....
#40
Old 08-23-2013, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Max Torque View Post
I have one of those on my desk right now. And I thought I was the only one....
I started using it when I realized that Q-tips generally just push everything further up in.
#41
Old 08-24-2013, 02:38 AM
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Once for about six months my hearing was muffled slightly and when moving around my ears or using a Q tip it sounded like dry rasping paper was in my ears or something.

Eventually I couldn't take it anymore after one ear was basically sounding like I had a pillow over it all day, I asked my wife to get whatever it was out with a non-sharp tweezer.

She was absolutely disgusted when she removed inches long coiled up dead skin from inside my ears, it was like the skin inside my ear canal came off in one piece, it looked like a snake skin!

It was an amazing feeling of relief and hearing returning to get that crap out, never recurred. Wish I had taken a pic to share.
#42
Old 08-24-2013, 09:35 AM
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I haven't seen anyone mention a proprietary softener called Cerumol. My doctor recommends it. I put a drop or two in the ear for a couple days and then use a bulb syringe to clean it out. It works well. I use the syringe in the shower.

Once, inadvertently, I discovered that keeping the ear under salt water for an hour or so also softens it. I had been swimming on back (elementary backstroke, which I can keep up nearly forever) and after I came out there was brown gunk leaking out the ear, which had been blocked and I was waiting to get home to use Cerumol. (Incidentally, "cer" is the French root for wax and "mol" the French word for soft.)
#43
Old 08-24-2013, 09:59 AM
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Perhaps I'm odd in this, but I find it enjoyable when a nurse softens it up and then grips the "blockage" and then starts removing it. Feels great when the sound rushes in as she pulls it out.

Again, probably weird, but whatever.
#44
Old 08-24-2013, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elninost0rm View Post
Perhaps I'm odd in this, but I find it enjoyable when a nurse softens it up and then grips the "blockage" and then starts removing it. Feels great when the sound rushes in as she pulls it out.

Again, probably weird, but whatever.
Not at all -- it's a great feeling. I start hearing sounds (mostly sssssssssss) that I hadn't heard in months!
#45
Old 08-24-2013, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
What finally seemed to do the trick was a chemical that is supposed to be used for degreasing car engines.

You have got to be shitting me. Just how drunk do you have to be before this looks like a good idea?
Seriously, this is two steps beyond stupid. Please don't anyone follow this course of action. The skin in your ear is very tender and chemicals that you can splash your palm with no effect would burn the living shit out your ear.
#46
Old 09-01-2013, 11:27 PM
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He doesn't drink.

I agree this wasn't one of his more brilliant moves, though.
#47
Old 09-01-2013, 11:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
What finally seemed to do the trick was a chemical that is supposed to be used for degreasing car engines

You have got to be ****ting me. Just how drunk do you have to be before this looks like a good idea?
Seriously, this is two steps beyond stupid. Please don't anyone follow this course of action. The skin in your ear is very tender and chemicals that you can splash your palm with no effect would burn the living **** out your ear.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seanette View Post
He doesn't drink.

I agree this wasn't one of his more brilliant moves, though.
Not drunk, just desperate.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else, but after trying many, many different things, that's what finally worked, and it seems not to have done me any harm. No guarantee at all that for someone else, the results wouldn't be very different.
#48
Old 09-02-2013, 03:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
Not drunk, just desperate.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else, but after trying many, many different things, that's what finally worked, and it seems not to have done me any harm. No guarantee at all that for someone else, the results wouldn't be very different.
I'm sure there are all sorts of substances that can be put in the ear and will soften/remove wax and work for at least temporarily restoring hearing.

I'm also pretty sure that at least some of these shouldn't be in the ear canal in that they ever are bad for the skin, cause cancer, can attract insects that will then drill into your brain, or a whole host of other reasons.

I'm sure you could also use sand paper to remove stains from your teeth and a pair of needle nose pliers to remove impacted stools from your rectum....

It is good you are willing to experiment, and I guess thank for taking one for the team...
#49
Old 09-02-2013, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
How would olive oil help? It's just another lipid, not a solvent of any kind.
Any liquid is a solvent; being a lipid, olive oil (or any liquid oil, actually) dissolves the hydrophobic components of earwax better than water would, and without oxydizing them first like hydrogen peroxide does.
#50
Old 09-03-2013, 02:13 PM
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I just took my little girl to the doctor Friday for ear pain. She had a lot of wax and I'd tried using peroxide, which made her feel even worse. She had an infection and the peroxide got trapped within wax bubbles and put a lot of pressure on her ear drum. If I'd waited it could have ruptured. Her doctor told me never to use peroxide for heavy wax and only use a few drops of alcohol after swimming to dry the ears out. Heavy wax in the ears may be due to sinus issues so it's important to get it checked out. We now have drops, antibiotics, and Claritin and she feels so much better today.
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