Dr. Michael O'Leary shares three tips for women to keep their ears clean.
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 so 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. If you have kids or you yourself are swimming, coming in and out of the water, whether it’s the ocean or pool, my only tip there is that you bring with you a bottle of potable water, something you would drink, like a bottle of Evian or whatever, and when you get out of the water before you reach for your towel, grab the bottle and give a chug to each ear so you’ve rinsed it out with clean water. Then go ahead and dry, and what’s left inside that ear, what evaporates, has none of the bacteria, the foul things that come from both pool and ocean these days.
It looks sort of funny, but if anyone asks you, you can tell them that you are really thirsty; see what they’d say. But both those will do a good job of keeping your ear clean.
And the third tip is that if you can’t get success with either of these two techniques, take advantage of seeing a person who has a microscope, which is usually an ear specialist, to take a look in there and make sure something else isn’t going on.
Oftentimes it can be something as simple as wax that has accumulated with skin over the years and the water isn’t going to wash it out without a cleaning first, one time, but there may be something else going on too. So, see an ear specialist one time if the other techniques don’t work for you.
About Dr. O'Leary, M.D.:
As a neurotologist, Dr. Michael O'Leary specializes in diseases of the ear and balance, treating all aspects of ear problems, both medical and surgical. Among his unique areas of expertise in the ears are correction of surfer’s ears (exostosis), stapes surgery and repair of chronic mastoidectomy defects. His role on the skull-base team focuses on tumors of the lateral skull base, such as acoustic neuromas and meningiomas. He is also a nationally recognized leader in the development of minimally invasive techniques, including the endoscopic removal of pituitary tumors.