Earwax is a waxy substance secreted in the ear canal. It is a natural cleanser with antifungal and antibacterial properties that help protect the ears.
However, too much earwax can cause problems. A buildup can plug the canal and lead to:
- ear discharge
- hearing difficulties
- ringing in the ear, or tinnitus
- itching inside the ear
How can people remove excess earwax at home? Eardrops are a convenient solution, and these products often contain hydrogen peroxide.
Can hydrogen peroxide remove earwax?
Hydrogen peroxide is a common ingredient in ear drops.
The medical term for earwax is cerumen, and hydrogen peroxide is a cerumenolytic, which means that it can soften, break down, and dissolve earwax.
Ear drops can contain a variety of forms of hydrogen peroxide. A common type is carbamide hydroxide, which adds oxygen to the wax, causing it to bubble. This softens and helps to remove the buildup.
According to the results of a 2013 study, hydrogen peroxide may not be necessary. The researchers found that distilled water softened earwax effectively.
However, a large-scale Cochrane review from 2018 found no strong evidence that one type of ear drop was better than another. The researchers also found little evidence that any treatment was effective.
How to use hydrogen peroxide
When using ear drops, always follow the instructions on the packaging or the doctor's orders.
The instructions usually involve squeezing no more than five drops into each ear, two or three times a day, for up to 1 week.
The following general tips may help:
- lie down on one side
- squeeze the recommended number of drops into the ear canal
- stay still for around 5 minutes, then blot the ear with a tissue
People can make ear drop solutions at home using a 1:1 ratio of water and hydrogen peroxide. However, always consult a doctor before using any homemade solutions.
Side effects of hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide usually leads to no negative side effects. However, it can cause problems if a person has an ear infection or ear damage.
To avoid complications:
- talk to a doctor before using a new ear drop solution
- always follow the directions on the packaging
- do not use ear drops if the ears have been injured, as this can lead to pain or infection
- do not insert foreign objects into the ear to remove wax — even cotton buds can push wax farther in toward the eardrum
If a person experiences discomfort, blocked ears, or ear pain, or if the drops do not work, visit a doctor for advice and treatment.
Can you use hydrogen peroxide if you have an ear infection?
No. A person with an ear infection should visit their doctor immediately for a medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.
Other ways to remove ear wax
Salt water or distilled water can flush out ear wax.
When ear drops are not doing the job, a doctor may recommend using an ear syringe for earwax irrigation.
Many drugstores and online shops sell ear syringes. Always follow the directions on the packaging. Anyone who is unsure how to use an ear syringe or wondering whether the solution is appropriate should speak with a doctor.
Do not use cotton swabs, paperclips, hairpins, or any other objects to clean or unblock the ears. These can push the earwax farther in, and cause infections, pain, or damage to the ear canal or eardrums. In the event of such damage, visit a doctor right away.
Natural methods of removing earwax include:
- using an ear candle
- flushing out the ear with salt water or distilled water
- applying drops of warmed olive or baby oil
Always talk to a doctor before using natural or alternative methods of removing earwax.
Earwax protects the ears from infections and prevents water from reaching the inner structures. Usually, the ear releases this wax naturally.
However, some people produce more wax than necessary. Most of these people find that using ear drops does the trick. If not, a doctor can recommend effective treatments.
People who have excessive amounts of ear wax or who experience pain, discomfort, ear infections, or hearing loss should visit a doctor, who can check for underlying conditions and recommend treatment.