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Do You Need to Clean Your Ears?

Hand and Ear

Our ears are one of the most important parts of our body, even if they’re not the most aesthetically attractive. We all tend to take our hearing for granted, only noticing how much we rely on it when we lose it. If you’ve ever had a head cold, then you’ll know how disorientating and irritating a sudden loss of hearing can be. We use our ears for far more than we realize, so it’s important you keep them in good shape.

However, there’s one question that tends to divide opinion when it comes to ear maintenance: Should you clean them?

In truth, there’s no definitive answer to this question. The answer to the question is actually another question:

Which part of your “ears” are you referring to?

This is the question that truly governs the answer as to whether or not ear cleaning needs to be part of your regular routine.

Your ears are comprised of bone, tendons, muscles and cartilage. To keep things simple, however, we’ll split the ear down into two easily recognizable sections: the outer ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear is the part you can see when you look in the mirror; the part you can pierce with an earring if you so choose. The inner ear is the ear canal, the narrow tube that leads to your eardrum.

With that definition agreed, let’s ask the question in a slightly different way:

Do you need to clean your outer ear?

Yes! Your outer ear is the same as the rest of your body, so it should be included in your general cleaning routine. Most of us do this while we’re showering or bathing, and that’s completely fine; you don’t need to take special steps to clean the outer ear.

On rare occasions, you may notice that your outer ear needs a little extra attention. In these instances, use a damp cloth to gently clean the skin of any dirt or debris. You don’t need to use a lotion or soap. When the area is clean, pat the skin with a dry cloth to absorb any excess moisture.

So that’s the outer ear debate settled; now let’s move on to the big question...

Do you need to clean your inner ear?

Absolutely not.

Many people think that removing earwax is “cleaning” their ears; it isn’t. Your ears need earwax; it exists to keep the skin lubricated, and also serves as a defense barrier against infection. Removing earwax isn’t cleaning your ears; it’s depriving your ears of something they require to stay healthy.

If you suffer from excessive earwax, then don’t try to use a cotton swab to remove it. You will likely just worsen the situation and cause the wax to impact near the eardrum, a situation you will need the assistance of an audiologist to remove. You should never insert objects into your ear, especially not to “clean” them.

The titular question can be answered simply: yes, you need to clean your outer ear, but leave your inner ear well alone. If you are experiencing issues with your inner ear that make you want to attempt cleaning it, don’t: Contact an audiologist for further advice.