Dr. Michael O'Leary is a neurotologist, specializing in diseases of the ear and balance. He'd like you to avoid cotton swabs because these push wax and dead skin further into the ear.
Dr. O'Leary suggests things like letting shampoo also do your ears when you're washing your hair. Or pour water into your ears after swimming. When in doubt about the condition of your ears he recommends having an ear specialist take a look inside.
(Transcribed from video interview)
I am commonly asked about, “How do I keep my ears clean, or my kid’s ears clean?” I’d like to offer three tips on how to do that. The first one is, avoid at all costs, Q-tips. People who are particularly clean think that they are helping; they are actually doing the worst thing they can do for an ear. The ear is a very delicate system designed for hearing, not for protection, and when you push that Q-tip in there, you are pushing all the wax and dead skin in exactly the wrong place.
So I say please stop the cycle of violence. If you are doing it for yourself, please don’t do it for your kids. But the easy way to take care and the more natural way to take care of your ear actually, and the way it’s worked very nicely long before we had doctors or written records even, is when you wash your hair let the shampoo suds come into the ear, both sides, and my recipe, and I like to say this is a recipe because you can take it or leave it. But since all I do is ears the recipe is pretty good.
Take the shampoo; put it down into your ear so that you don’t hear the shower so well, and that means enough shampoo suds went in there, and then just rinse that out like you rinse your hair; dry it with a towel. If you want to blow dry, you can do that too if you don’t like ears wet, and that’s it. The ear will be on autopilot.
All the other recipes we use from alcohol, peroxide, Q-tips, wax breakup drops–all of those contaminate a really finely adjusted system and make things worse and result in people coming back repeatedly to doctor’s offices with problems, classic swimmer’s ear.
In that regard, I would offer one other tip too.