You should almost never clean out the wax in your ears — here’s why

In most cases, earwax doesn’t actually need to be removed at all as it helps keep the ears healthy, and old wax is cleaned out automatically. But there are some exceptions, and some people might need a doctor’s help to remove excessive earwax.

This is the official decree of the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), which released official earwax guidelines earlier this year.

The guidelines say: “Earwax that does not cause symptoms or block the ear canal should be left alone.” No ear candling. No syringes full of water. And especially no Q-tips.

As earwax removal extraordinaire Dr. Mark Vaughan told BUSINESS INSIDER in August, Q-tips are too big and too blunt to actually scoop out wax from your ears. “All you can do is push [wax] in,” he said.

Besides, as the guidelines explain, earwax is there for a reason. It helps to trap dirt and dust, preventing them from traveling further into the ear. It also cleans itself: Chewing, jaw motion, and the growth of new skin continuously push old wax out of the ear canal. Then it just flakes off or falls away in the shower. It’s a natural process that helps keep your ears healthy, and there’s no good reason to mess with it.

The guidelines say that if you have symptoms of earwax blockage, including ear pain, itching, ringing or a feeling of ear fullness, hearing loss, ear discharge or odor, or coughing, you should ask a doctor to take a look. Medical professionals can remove earwax safely and effectively, when it’s necessary.

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