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Best Ear Wax Drops: To Soften or Not To Soften?

Infographic representing Ear Cleaning Drops

What is the best ear wax drops to use for ear wax build up?

Ear wax, scientifically known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by the ear to protect and lubricate the ear canal. In some cases, however, ear wax can build up and cause discomfort or hearing problems. To address this issue, many people turn to ear wax softeners or cerumenolytics. These products are designed to soften the ear wax, making it easier to remove. However, recent research suggests that the use of ear wax softeners may carry potential risks, including the risk of infection. In this blog post, we'll explore the use of ear wax softeners and the emerging alternative, cerumen micro-suction, as a potentially safer and more effective method for ear wax removal.


The role of ear wax

Ear wax is a complex substance composed of dead skin cells, hair, and a waxy, oily substance produced by the ear's ceruminous glands. It serves several important functions, including:

  • Lubrication: Ear wax helps to keep the ear canal moist and prevents it from drying out, reducing the risk of itchiness and discomfort.

  • Protection: It acts as a natural barrier, preventing dust, dirt, and foreign particles from entering the ear canal.

  • Antibacterial Properties: Ear wax contains natural antimicrobial properties that can help protect the ear from infection.

When the production and clearance of earwax are balanced, it generally does not cause any issues. However, when ear wax accumulates or hardens, it can cause hearing problems, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and discomfort.


What are the best ear wax softening drops to use?


To address ear wax blockages, many people turn to over-the-counter ear wax softeners or cerumenolytics. These products typically contain active ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, saline solution, or glycerin, which help soften the earwax, making it easier to remove. While ear wax softeners can be effective for many individuals, recent research suggests that their use may pose certain risks. Here at Clear Ears Perth, we prefer our patients DO NOT use wax softeners prior to coming into our clinic for professional wax removal. 

Woman using ear drops to soften ear wax

Recent Research into Cerumenolytics


A study published in 2021 in the Journal of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery highlighted potential risks associated with the use of ear wax softeners. The study found that ear wax softeners could disrupt the delicate microbial balance of the ear canal. This imbalance can make the ear more susceptible to infection. Researchers also noted that these products may inadvertently wash away the protective antimicrobial properties found in ear wax, leaving the ear canal vulnerable.


Cerumen Micro-Suction: A Safer Alternative


In response to the potential risks associated with ear wax softeners, many healthcare professionals are turning to cerumen micro-suction as a safer and more effective method for removing wax. This procedure involves using a specialized device to gently suction out the earwax without the need for any liquids or chemicals.

The benefits of cerumen micro-suction include:

  • Precision: Micro-suction allows for the precise removal of ear wax without the risk of pushing it further into the ear canal.

  • Minimized Infection Risk: As it doesn't involve the use of liquids or chemicals, the risk of disrupting the ear's microbial balance is reduced.

  • Minimal Discomfort: The procedure is typically well-tolerated and minimally uncomfortable, making it suitable for people of all ages.


While ear wax softeners can be effective in many cases, it's essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with their use, including the risk of infection. Recent research underscores the importance of maintaining the delicate balance of the ear's microbiome. Cerumen micro-suction, a newer and increasingly popular method for ear wax removal, offers a safer alternative that minimizes these risks while effectively addressing ear wax blockages. If you're experiencing ear wax-related issues, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional who can recommend the most appropriate and safe method for your specific needs.

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