Management of Earwax

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) released an updated guideline on cerumen (earwax) impaction. An estimated 1 in 10 children and about 1 in 20 adults have excessive or impacted cerumen. About 12 million people in the United States seek treatment for this issue annually. In its updated guideline, AAO-HNSF recommended education on proper ear hygiene to prevent cerumen impaction, such as washing the outer ear with soap and water and properly cleaning hearing aids routinely. What they did not recommend was inserting foreign objects such as cotton swabs in the ear as they can worsen impaction by jamming the earwax deeper into the ear canal.

Our recommendation is to use an earwax kit or Debrox to soften the earwax and then flush the earwax out with a bulb syringe. The kit includes the bulb syringe. The packaging says to soften twice a day for 4 days. Olive oil, also called sweet oil, can also be used, but is not as water soluble. The AAO-HNSF also recommends against ear candling. Impaction can lead to ear pain, ringing in the ears, or hearing loss. If you have these symptoms please contact your doctor or pharmacist.