Feeling a little extra pressure in your ears? Audiologists would rather you called them or your physician, instead o trying out the hydrogen peroxide ear cleaning trend on Tiktok.
TikTok plays host to a multitude of videos showcasing various ways of cleaning earwax from your ears, from special suction devices, to massages, to pouring various substances like vodka and mineral oil into the ear canal. The majority of these videos claim their way is the foolproof way to get the ears squeaky clean. The hashtag #earcleaning has more than 1.7 billion views on TikTok alone.
Glenn Hole, an audiologist at Audiology first in Lethbridge, Alberta, says that while they will sometimes recommend patients clean out their ears with drops, doing so without the guidance and supervision of a healthcare practitioner isn’t advisable.
“Earwax is meant to be there for the most part,” says Hole. “Unless it’s actually locking up, there’s no good reason to remove it from your ears because it protects you from infections and protects you from dirt and debris entering the ear. The ear has a great way of shedding wax out of your ear naturally.”
Pure hydrogen peroxide can cause burns and irritation
In one video with more than 3.5 million views, TikToker jessthemess345 pours hydrogen peroxide directly into her ear while lying on her side. Saying the sensation was “super uncomfy,” jessthemess345 shows her ear almost overflowing with the clear liquid which then starts to bubble and foam. She also notes that her vision started to spin during this process, but that it could also “be because [she] didn’t eat today.”
“Peroxide is one of those items that does something, it’s very active in your ear,” says Hole. “It bubbles; it makes a fizzing sound. It’s a show piece in a lot of ways and it’s one of those things that makes its way to social media because it’s kind of pretty — ‘Look at this bubbling my ear, it’s obviously doing something.’”
While prescribed ear drops may contain hydrogen peroxide, contact with higher concentrations of the stuff can cause skin irritation or even burns. Hole also adds that if there is a serious impaction, hydrogen peroxide or drops won’t be enough to get it loose. In that case, the drops or an oil will simply be prescribed to soften the clump of wax so it can be taken out by a medical professional without damaging the ear canal.
Patients who have previously had damage to their ear canal or ear drum are also at greater risk of complications from putting different substances in their ears. In that case, it’s best to speak to a doctor or audiologist about any discomfort in their ears.
Why do we have this gross stuff in our ears anyways
While earwax is considered gross by many, it plays a key role in the health of our ears.
Also known as cerumen, the fatty substance is produced by glands in the outer ear canal. Its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties help protect the ear from infection, while the sticky substance collects dirt, dead skin cells and hair that would otherwise become trapped in the canal.
Over time earwax is gently pushed out of the ear, taking the dirt and gunk with it. This process keeps the ear clean and free from buildup and blockages, which is essential to maintaining ear health.
Constantly cleaning earwax out of the ears can leave the ear dry, itchy and vulnerable to infection. It may also have the unintended opposite effect, prompting the ear to produce even more cerumen, compounding the problem.
That being said, it is a possibility that the body produces too much earwax, which can result in impacted wax, temporary hearing loss, an earache or a constant need to cough, among other symptoms.
Doctors may prescribe drops, may choose to irrigate the ear with water, or may remove the ball of wax using specialized tools. The prescribed method will take into account the severity of the impacted wax, mitigate damage that may have already been done due to excess pressure, and protect the delicate eardrum located at the end of the canal.