Ear lavage, also known as ear irrigation, is an effective way to remove excess earwax and foreign materials from the ear. The ear naturally produces earwax to lubricate itself, prevent dust and other foreign particles from entering into the ear, and regulate bacterial activity. An excess of earwax, hardening of earwax, or any foreign materials in the ear can obstruct the ear and cause earache, fullness in the ears, itching, tinnitus, foul odor, or temporary loss of hearing. The ear consists of delicate parts such as the eardrum and ear canal. Buildup of earwax and entry of foreign debris can overtime damage these parts and lead to hearing problems.
Ear lavage can be performed at your doctor’s office or home. In your doctor’s office, your doctor will first examine your ear using an otoscope. An otoscope is a medical device fitted with a light source and lens that illuminates and magnifies your ear canal and eardrum. Once your doctor ensures that your ear problem is caused by excess earwax or foreign debris, he then inserts a syringe-like instrument and administers water or a water saline solution mixture into your affected ear and flushes out the wax or debris.
To perform an ear lavage at home, you may use a dropper to administer mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or specific medication. This can be performed about 2 to 3 times a day over a period of a few days to weaken or break down the wax deposit. Once you feel the wax has softened, you may then fill moderately warm water or a water saline solution mixture in a syringe and flush out your affected ear.
Individuals with damaged eardrums, tubes in the ears, or immune system disorders are not recommended to undergo ear lavage. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment plan specific to your condition.
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