A build-up of earwax occasionally warrants an ear flush, especially if it is a recurring problem. Earwax is a common annoyance for which some people utilize ear flushes to get relief. However, you must take care in removing earwax, as the wax is a naturally produced substance that normally plays an important role in protecting your ear. Earwax problems are best treated by a doctor to reduce the chance of injury to the ear canal and eardrum.
Earwax coats the outer ear canal to help protect your eardrum against germs and infections. Most earwax surfaces on its own, allowing for easy occasional removal with a cotton swab. Resources from Aetna InteliHealth advise against overusing earwax removal techniques, as you can cause further problems by pushing ear wax deeper into your canal. Over-cleaning the ears commonly leads to wax getting pushed down and becoming trapped deep into the canal.
In some cases, an excessive amount of wax build-up in the ear canal warrants a flush. InteliHealth notes it is not advisable to use water on your own at home as part of an ear flush, as this can lead to infection if performed incorrectly. A doctor is the best candidate to flush your ears. However, if earwax build-up is a recurring problem, he might give you tips to perform the flush on your own.
An ear flush uses warm water, a medicine dropper, bulb syringe and a wax softener. Some over-the-counter wax softeners include baby oil and mineral oil. Your doctor will keep your ear pointed up as he places a few drops of oil or water into the ear. After five minutes, the wax will drain out when you tilt your head to the side. In more severe cases, your doctor will suction the softened wax out with a bulb syringe.
Preventing earwax build-up can keep you from needing an ear flush later on. If you do not over-clean your ears and wax is still a problem, treatments are available to help prevent earwax build-up. According to MayoClinic.com, such treatments include ear drop medications and are used every one to two months. Do not use ear medication more often than this unless your doctor recommends it, otherwise irritation may ensue.
Flushes are not generally recommended for babies and young children. Children at this age are more susceptible to ear infections from water flushes, as their ear canals are smaller. Instead, a pediatrician can remove trapped earwax with a curette instrument. Call your doctor immediately if a yellow-tinged or bloody discharge drains out of your ear, as this can be a sign of a wide range of problems including head injury, a trapped object, infection, eczema or cancer.