Tricks to Avoid Ear Wax Build-Up

We might not want to hear it but we all need ear wax. Ear wax, or cerumen as it’s otherwise known, serves the very important purpose of keeping our ears clean and germ-free by blocking the entry of dust, bacteria and foreign particles.1,2,6

Once it has done its job, ear wax dries up and drops out of the ear naturally, helped along the way by the movement our ear makes when we chew our food.1

But whilst ears should only produce the amount of wax we need, sometimes too much wax is made or accumulated, and this can result in a build-up of ear wax.

What Happens When Wax Builds Up in your Ears?

If you’ve ever experienced a blocked feeling or a sense of fullness in your ear, intense itching, loss of hearing, a ringing sound, or an ear infection, it may have been due to an ear wax build-up.3,6

The main cause of these problems is when ear wax becomes piled up against the ear drum. This normally happens because we’ve been sticking things into our ears that we shouldn’t have,2-6 like cotton tips, fingers, bobby pins, pens or rolled up napkins etc., which push the wax even further into the ear canal.

5 Tips to Avoid Wax Building Up in Your Ears:

  1. Keep things out! The number one rule to avoid an ear wax build-up is never to stick anything into your ears, including cotton tips and fingers.2,4-6
  2. Wipe with a cloth. Clean ears simply by wiping the outside ear with a damp cloth every few days.5
  3. Keep ears dry. Ensure ears are always dry – use a towel to dry the outer ear after each shower and tilt your head to the side to remove excess water after swimming.5
  4. Take a break. Minimise the use of earphones and ear plugs as their continued use reduces the opportunity for ear wax to fall out.3
  5. Drops may help. Consider using wax softening drops like WAXSOL.

Remember, we actually need ear wax to keep our ears clean so don’t be too hasty in trying to get rid of it. However, if you’re one of the many people whose ears produce a little too much ear wax, and you’re suffering pain, discomfort or hearing loss as a result, please be sure to see your doctor.

References used:

1. Better Health Channel 2021, Ear wax, viewed April 2024,
2. Cassoobhoy, A 2020, 'Earwax Buildup', WebMD, viewed MApril 2024.
3. National Health Service, United Kingdom 2015, Earwax build-up, viewed April 2024,
4. British Tinnitus Organisation n.d., Ear Wax Removal and Tinnitus, viewed April 2024,
5. Department of Health & Human Services. Swimmer’s ear. Published August 21, 2024. Viewed April 2024.
6. Krouse HJ, Magit AE, O’Connor S, Schwarz SR, Walsh SA. Plain Language Summary: Earwax (Cerumen Impaction). Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. 2017;156(1):30-37. Viewed April 2024.


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