If you’ve been using cotton swabs and q-tips to clean your ears then stop immediately! Cleaning your ears is a great way to ensure overall ear health, but you need to realize that removing earwax on your own is difficult and might even damage your ears if you aren’t careful. To help you out, we’ve put together a couple of audiologist-approved ways to clean your ears without causing further damage.

1. Speak to your audiologist

The first course of action should be to speak with your audiologist. Not just for cleaning, but to also ensure that you need to clean your own ears. Our ears are designed to naturally expunge any excess earwax on its own. However, something may have happened and you might start building excess earwax that could cause future issues. Before you do anything drastic or potentially dangerous, make sure you speak to your audiologist and ask for advice.

2. Clean only the outside of your ears

You don’t have to clean the insides of your ears–you can clean the outside too. We would recommend that you use a warm damp cloth to clean the outsides of your ears. Don’t stick the cloth inside of your ear. It likely won’t fit and you could end up damaging the nerves in your ear. Instead, gently wipe around the ear and the entrance of the ear canal to clean it of any immediate wax.

3. Soften the wax instead

You can also use different earwax-beating solutions to soften it so that it naturally falls out again. This includes mineral oil, baby oil, and even over-the-counter ear drops. It’s important that you get help when using these to ensure that you don’t use too much and potentially block your ear.

4. Irrigate your ears

It’s possible to do ear irrigation at home to help you clear out excess wax that could be blocking your hearing and causing tinnitus or temporary hearing loss. Ear irrigation can also be done by a professional audiologist and we would highly recommend it over doing it at home. You should only be using some lukewarm water, nothing too cold or too hot and you may find it easier to use a syringe.

Cleaning your ears is an important part of your overall hygiene. You should be looking for ways to safely clean your ears especially if your audiologist has deemed that you produce more earwax than usual. If you’re unable to clean your own ears or if you want them to be cleaned professionally, then the safer approach would be to speak to your audiologist whenever you need them cleaned. However, the other three methods work fine as well and there’s nothing wrong with cleaning your own ears.