One of the most common problems faced by a large number of individuals globally is the outcome of unproved home remedies for medical problems. Technically, most home remedies are known to be effective, but need to be used judiciously and only with complete knowledge. Individuals who end up affected with unusual problems are those who may have extrapolated some know remedy to some other condition. There are instances of individuals having to undergo major procedures or treatment regimen to undo the harm caused by incorrect home remedies. The following subsections explain one such common condition of ear wax removal and possible hydrogen peroxide in ear side effects.

Overview of earwax and its removal

The body produces ear wax as a natural cleanser with properties that help to keep fungus and bacteria out of the ear. This is the body’s natural protection to the ear. However, due to one of many possible reasons, ear wax secretion may be more than desired, resulting in clogging, and other issues such as infections, pain in the ears, and possible discharge from the ear. Individuals are also known to have difficulty hearing clearly or with clarity, while others are known to experience tinnitus, a ringing sensation in the ear. Itching is another common condition that may be experienced by many individuals.

The most common method of ear wax removal at home is to use OTC ear drops that help to dislodge and remove the wax. One of the main ingredients of ear wax is hydrogen peroxide, and this makes individuals consider hydrogen peroxide as fully safe to use at home. Is it really safe? Let’s find out more about it, but before that here are other common actions performed by individuals that are not really safe. A good option would be to consult an ENT specialist who possesses the instruments, and the knowledge to remove the wax safely without any possible undesirable outcomes. Here are common errors that need to be avoided.

#1 Use of unclean or sharp objects to clean the ear

This is one of the most common mistakes that have been reported. The insertion of sharp or unclean objects into the ear can result in damage to the ear drum and canal and this could result in disastrous consequences such as loss of hearing. The probability of infections is also high when unclean objects are used to clean the ear. Commonly used objects are those that are readily available at hand and strangely include keys, pens, the other end of ear buds, apart from objects that are available in the market for ear cleaning. If handled incorrectly, even these special ear cleaning instruments may cause severe damage.

#2 Use of cotton or other fabric

The use of cotton or other rough cloth to remove wax is also commonly practiced. Individuals are known to use wads of cotton that may be soaked or used dry to clean out the wax. This is not recommended, as this may actually end up pushing the wax deeper and into the ear canal. This may then require specialist assistance for removal. It would be a better option to rely on a specialist to remove the wax if it appears to be hardened.

#3 Frequency of cleaning

As mentioned earlier, ear wax when secreted in the right amount, is harmless and protective in nature. It may not be necessary for most individuals to remove ear wax. The wax is cleansed naturally during bathing, and as a result of the movement of the jaws.  In most conditions, excessive ear wax is typically dislodged or slowly drained out of the ear when the individual is in a sleeping position. The remaining wax is necessary to trap and prevent disease causing bacteria, fungus or tiny insects from harming the ear canal.

#4 Oil remedy

One of the most commonly used methods worldwide, often referred to as ‘granny’s remedy’ is the use of hot oil to drain out excessive ear wax. This can be harmful in a large number of cases. For instance, the inside of the ears is extremely sensitive and any damage from hot substances can cause serious damage to the hearing ability. The oil should be clean, needs to be of the right temperature, and needs to be fully removed after it is applied. This is necessary to prevent the oil from acting as a medium for accumulation of dirt. The possibility of a fungal infection also rises if water mingles with the oil and is not cleaned out properly. This home remedy, despite being useful and practiced commonly, comes with the possibility of going wrong.

#5 Softening earwax with heat

This is another remedy that is practiced in many areas, though not as commonly or frequently as the others. This involves introduction of smoke into the ear to facilitate the softening or melting of ear wax. This is an extremely risky option, and comes with the highest risk of causing irreparable damage to the ears. There is a very strong possibility of the ear drums suffering damage from this option. The materials used for inducing the smoke are often candles, and it is quite clear that directing wisps of smoke from a burning candle is not easy, and this may involve tilting the candle at an angle which can cause burns from flame or from the molten wax.

Effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide in earwax removal

With the above information outlined, it is now time to look at the possible hydrogen peroxide in ear side effects. Hydrogen peroxide, as mentioned above is a common ingredient in solutions prescribed for ear wax removal. As a cerumenolytic, hydrogen peroxide softens the wax that is essentially cerumen – the brown/orange/red/yellowish or greyish substance. Hydrogen peroxide has properties that break down and dissolve this wax.  Many products come with slight variations in the ingredients, and this is intended to increase the effectiveness or the outcome of the drops.

Typically, the ear drops available as OTC products are expected to be used twice a day for a week, with about 4 or 5 drops recommended to be introduced into the ear. This requires the individual to be resting on one side for about 15 minutes after the drops have been squeezed into the ear. This is then repeated on the other ear.  Generally, the formulations contain 3% of hydrogen peroxide and this is accepted as the ideal concentration for ear wax removal. However, individuals who attempt ear wax removal at home with hydrogen peroxide may end up using stronger concentrations.

Commercially available solutions are manufactured with safe concentration levels to avoid any undesirable outcomes from inadvertent or excessive use. Therefore, a slightly stronger solution may be considered as relatively safe, but this should not be regarded as recommendation for home use or use of stronger concentrations.

Possibility of undesirable effects or hydrogen peroxide in ear side effects

Most medications come with the possibility of undesirable effects. However, OTC products are known to have a relatively lesser side effect profile when compared with prescription products. The classification of products as OTC are after the necessary checks and are intended to help users procure and use certain formulations safely. However, this does not entirely rule out the possibility of unwanted outcomes of the products. For instance, most OTC products are expected to be used in ideal conditions, in other words, the product works best and safely when particular conditions are met.

Hydrogen peroxide is relatively safe, as an OTC product, but as mentioned above can cause problems when there is unknown or known issues. For instance, an individual may have a damaged or raw ear canal, or could be having an infection in the ear. When hydrogen peroxide is used on the ears, in such circumstances, this could aggravate the condition and cause considerable discomfort. This may also need additional treatment to fix the new set of problems from the hydrogen peroxide. Individuals who are aware of any injuries to the ear, or any sore feeling in the ear are to avoid hydrogen peroxide. Individuals who have used any sharp object to clean the ears just before using hydrogen peroxide are at risk of causing a burning sensation or damage to the ears.

Ideal methods to remove ear wax if necessary

There could be various conditions that make ear wax removal necessary. For instance, if the individual experiences any of the following, it may be necessary seek specialist assistance for ear wax removal:

  • Some kind of excessive heat around the ears
  • If pain is experienced
  • If abnormal discharge is observed
  • If there is difficulty in hearing
  • If symptoms of infection are experienced

Ear wax can be removed by an ENT specialist or the same can also be performed at home as per the directions of the ENT specialist. For instance, the specialist may prescribe ear drops that need to be squeezed into the ears for a week, following which the ear wax is known to drain out or can be cleaned easily. In the event of the wax requiring removal by a specialist, it may involve the use of an ear syringe that will first irrigate the canal and remove the wax.

The use of ear syringes is to be performed only by a specialist as excessive pressure or misdirected pressure can cause irreparable damage to the drums and the canal. Specialists use the right instruments and viewing equipment to get a good view of the inside of the ear and use the right instruments to perform the procedure. This cannot be achieved at home by an individual either self or with assistance from others at home.

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