According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), compacted ear wax occurs in 5 percent of healthy adults and 57 percent of geriatric patients in nursing homes. Olive oil provides an effective home remedy for removing compacted ear wax, as long as you follow certain safety precautions.
Ear wax (cerumen) protects the sensitive parts of your inner ear by preventing the entrance of bacteria, dust and other small particles through the ear canal, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Generally, wax slowly works its way to the outside of your ear for easy removal, but accumulation of excessive ear wax in the ear canal can become a problem for certain individuals. Large amounts of ear wax may harden and lodge in the ear canal, creating a condition called cerumen impaction.
Trying to wipe impacted ear wax from your ears often just causes the hardened chunks of wax to shift further back into your ear canal. According to the AAFP, olive oil is an acceptable oil-based preparation that makes ear wax removal easier by softening the cerumen. Once softened, the olive oil-coated wax typically breaks down into smaller pieces, often slipping to the outside edge of your ear canal where you can easily and safely wipe it with a tissue or soft cloth.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of ear wax blockage include tinnitus (ringing in your ear), earaches, a sensation of fullness in your ear and loss of hearing. If you experience these symptoms of wax impaction or have a history of excessive wax buildup, talk to your doctor about using olive oil as a home remedy for softening and removing your ear wax. If you don't already have it, purchase olive oil from your local grocery store where it's generally located in the baking aisle.
Use olive oil alone or with water irrigation to remove wax from your ears. The AAFP recommends that you put three drops of olive oil in the affected ear each day for three to four days. Place the room-temperature drops of olive oil in your ears with an eye dropper in the evening right before going to bed; lying in bed on your side allows the oil to penetrate the wax more deeply. Use a bulb syringe to spray warm water gently into the ear on the day following the last treatment to encourage the lubricated wax to fall from the ear, if necessary.
Do not attempt to use olive oil to remove ear wax from your ears if you suspect you have a perforated ear drum. According to the NIH, symptoms of a perforated ear drum include ear drainage, buzzing sounds in the ear, unusual ear discomfort or pain and hearing loss. The AAFP further warns against using olive oil or other wax-softening drops in your ears if you have ear tubes in place or have experienced recent surgery relating to your ear drums.