Normal healthy ears contain ear wax

Ear wax is produced by a special lining in the ear canal. There are two types of ear wax: dry or wet. The wet ear wax is sticky so that it can trap dust in the canal. The wax gradually leaves the ear with the help of special migrating skin cells that move it out. This process may take several months to complete.

Healthy skin cells are needed for the normal removal of ear wax

Cotton buds can damage these delicate cells. The rubbing action of cotton buds can also scratch the lining of the ear canal causing itchiness, inflammation, infection and other problems. Cotton buds push the wax further into the ear canal, impacting, rather than removing it. The cotton buds can also damage the eardrum easily as the ear canal is short.

It is recommended that you never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow!

Some people are tempted to use things such as cotton buds, hair clips, etc. However, ear specialists see an alarming number of ear problems (some serious) linked to the use of cotton buds. The ears naturally clean themselves. A face washer/flannel to wipe away wax at the outer ear is often all that is needed.

Blocked Ears

Some people have more of a problem with blocked ears than others. This can be due to:

  • Greater amounts of wax being produced by some people
  • Narrow ear canals
  • Hairs in the ear canal
  • Cleaning with cotton buds, hairpins or other items that push the wax further down the ear canal.
  • Dusty or dirty work environments
  • Skin problems that cause the skin inside of the ear to flake & trap the wax.

What can be done to help?

If your ears are blocked, Crystal Clear Ears will, under a microscope, use  tiny spoons and gentle suction to effectively clear the blocked wax.

An ear wax softener such as olive oil or ear wax drops can be used occasionally for those who have hard wax in their ears. (Do not use if the ear is sore or discharging) but please consult with our nurses before use. Do not use drops if you know you have a hole in your eardrum.

Many people ask advice on ear candling. Does it work? The following information is based on expert advice and research studies reported in the United Kingdom.

What is ear candling?

A hollow candle is burned with one end in the ear canal. The intention is to create a negative pressure (or vacuum) which draws the ear wax out of the ear canal.

Research study

Research studies in the United Kingdom found the following (Seely et al, 1996)*

Two different sorts of candles were burnt in 20 patients ears to investigate the claimed vacuum effect. Measurements in the ear canal showed that ear candling did not produce a negative pressure at any time during the trial.

A small trial showed that no ear wax was removed from the canals of the ears with impacted wax. Instead, candle wax was deposited into the ear canal in some of the participants.

Injuries from candling

A survey of 122 Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists in the UK found 21 injuries from the use of ear candles: 13 burns to the ear, seven blockages to the ear with candle wax, and one perforation of the eardrum.


The use of ear candles has no benefit in the management of earwax removal.

Visit Crystal Clear Ears to have professional ear cleaning by a nurse trained in the same techniques used by Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists.

Ear wax (cerumen) is produced in the ear canal and helps to keep the ear clean. The ear wax naturally works its way out, bringing with it dust and other irritants. At times, the ear wax builds up and causes problems, such as mild deafness, pain, and that annoying ‘full’ feeling in the ear. Some people are more prone to blockages from the wax than others. This can be due to:

  • A tendency to produce lots of ear wax
  • Narrow ear canals
  • Hairs in the ear canal
  • Putting objects in the ear which shouldn’t be there like cotton buds or hairpins
  • Working in dust or dirt
  • Conditions of the skin or scalp that cause the skin to shed

Ear plugs and earphones

The use of earplugs for ear protection and ear phones for music players and mobile phones can push the ear wax back into the ear canal causing blocked ears. Regular ear checks are important for frequent wearers of ear plugs and earphones, to keep ear canals clean and to ensure your hearing is the best it can be.

Why is my hearing aid whistling?

Hearing aids also push ear wax back into the ear canal causing blocked ears.

A build up of wax can cause hearing aids to whistle. Regular ear checks are important for hearing aid wearers, to keep ear canals clean and to ensure your hearing is the best it can be.

Hearing tests

Ear cleaning is recommended prior to hearing tests to ensure an accurate test result.

Crystal Clear Ears

Patients visiting Crystal Clear Ears will have their ears examined by one of our ear nurses and have their blocked ears cleared.

This page is intended to provide information of a general nature only. Acknowledgements to The Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital for this information.

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