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In general, you do not need to see a doctor to remove ear wax buildup unless you consistently suffer from excess ear wax, you have a perforation, or hole, in your eardrum and cannot perform at-home remedies, or at-home remedies do not work. Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance secreted by the glands in the ear to protect the ear from damage. It does this by keeping bacteria, dust and other particles from entering the ear, as well as by preventing irritation in the ear canal when water enters the ear. Usually, old ear wax slowly nears the opening of the ear and falls out or is washed out, bringing with it the trapped particles. Sometimes, though, a health care professional is required if the ear produces too much wax to get rid of efficiently, or people clean their ear improperly and push the ear wax deeper into the ear.
You can remove ear wax buildup with at-home remedies by softening the wax or performing a removal process called irrigation. Baby oil, mineral oil and over-the-counter drops can soften ear wax, enabling it to drain easier. Examples of over-the-counter drops include carbamide peroxide and hydrodgen peroxide. It is important to remember that while you can try to soften the ear wax at home, you should not use these products if you know you have a perforated eardrum or even if you do not know if you have a perforated eardrum. This is because using these products in an ear with a perforated eardrum can cause infection.
Irrigation is a process in which you introduce a small stream of body-temperature water into the ear as you hold and pull your outside ear upward. After adding the water along the wall of the ear canal next to the buildup, you need to tip your head and let the water drain out. You might have to repeat the irrigation process a few times. If you have a perforated eardrum, though, you should not irrigate your ear. In addition, you can use a bulb-type syringe for the irrigation process, but you should never use a jet irrigator because the force can cause damage to your eardrum.
You should never try to remove ear wax buildup through ear candling or by using instruments such as a bobby pin or cotton swab. Ear candling is dangerous and is not proven to effectively remove ear wax buildup; bobby pins or cotton swabs are also dangerous and can not only push the ear wax deeper into the ear canal, but can also damage the eardrum. It is important to see a doctor after causing the buildup to happen on one's own. In addition to excess ear wax, you might need to see a doctor if the at-home remedies fail, if you think you might have a perforated eardrum, or if you experience any fever, hearing loss or pain. The doctor will remove the buildup through additional irrigation, by using a suction in the ear canal, or by using an instrument called a curette.