Hydrogen peroxide is a popular ingredient in ear drops used to treat ear infections and earwax removal (cerumen). It is safe when used carefully as directed by your healthcare provider. However, the use of this chemical must be restricted to the prescribed concentration and frequency.
Hydrogen peroxide is a potent oxidizing agent and may cause skin irritation and rashes in some people, especially when used at high concentrations. At concentrations over 10 percent, it can even cause burns and blistering. Overuse of hydrogen peroxide can also cause ear pain and inflammation.
Other side effects of excessive hydrogen peroxide use include:
- Hearing loss (generally a temporary hearing loss)
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Bitter taste
- Ear discharge
Additionally, hydrogen peroxide may cause residual bubbling in the ears that can interfere with ear examinations. So, avoid using this chemical if you have an ear infection or a perforated eardrum unless your doctor asks you to do so.
How do you use hydrogen peroxide to remove ear wax?
Hydrogen peroxide is a potent cerumenolytic agent (chemicals that break down ear wax and help remove it). When using this chemical to remove earwax, consider the following:
Things you need:
- Three percent hydrogen peroxide solution
- A medicine dropper
- A soft cloth or a towel
How to use hydrogen peroxide in the ear:
- Fill a small amount of three percent hydrogen peroxide in a medicine dropper.
- Tilt your head to one side and add two to three drops of hydrogen peroxide in your ear with the help of the dropper. You may get help from someone to do this.
- Keep your head tilted so the ear in which you dropped the solution stays upright.
- Stay in this position for four to five minutes. You may feel some fizzing in the affected ear as the wax gets dissolved in the peroxide solution.
- Slowly turn your head against the soft cloth or towel to drain out the solution and excess earwax.
- Clean your ear with a soft cloth or a hand towel. Ensure that you dry the outer ear with a clean cloth or towel.
What are some other ways to clean earwax at home?
Generally, cleaning your ears is not needed because they can clean themselves. Earwax is a protective substance produced within the ear that serves several important functions, such as preventing inner ear infections, acting as a natural moisturizer and trapping dust and dirt. The wax migrates from deep inside the ear canal to the outside on its own.
Nonetheless, some people have more earwax production that poses problems, such as a sensation of ear fullness, muffled hearing, dizziness and tinnitus. The safest way to remove this ear wax is by consulting with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
There are, however, some home remedies to remove ear wax, such as:
- Popping the ears (Valsalva maneuver): For performing the Valsalva maneuver, you must plug your nose with your fingers and blow out while keeping the lips closed and cheeks puffed. This maneuver will cause an instant “popping” sensation and provide relief for stuffy or clogged ears.
- Ear irrigation: One can try an over-the-counter ear irrigation kit, although it should be done carefully by following every provided instruction. Ear irrigation should not be done if the person had recent ear surgery or an active ear infection. The kit can be used two or three times a day or as instructed by your healthcare provider.
- Warm compression: Steam or warm compress may be used to help unclog the ears. For this, you may place a warm compress on the affected ear to let the steam get inside. Taking a hot shower for 10 to 15 minutes may also serve the same purpose.
- Oil drops: You can use oils available at home, such as olive, baby or mineral oil to clear the clogged ears. Use any of these oils at lukewarm temperatures and add two to three drops to the affected ear. Tilt your head for 15 to 20 seconds. Wipe the ear and repeat two to three times to remove the collected wax. Frequent use of oil drops is not recommended because it may cause fungal infections of the ear.
- Over-the-counter nasal decongestants: They may provide relief from clogged ears, especially when you have nasal or sinus inflammation. Over-the-counter ear drops may also be used following the label instructions.
Some popular earwax removal techniques, such as cotton-tipped swabs or candle methods, for unclogging your ears must not be used because they can be harmful.
It is recommended to seek professional help whenever possible, especially if:
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McCarter DF, Courtney AU, Pollart SM. Cerumen impaction. Am Fam Physician. 2007 May 15;75(10):1523-8. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0515/p1523.html
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