The best advice is never to put anything smaller than your elbow in them, says a hearing specialist
Photograph: Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images
People want to rid their ears of wax, but it is there to protect the ear from dirt and dust. The ear self-cleans: every time you move your jaw, the skin inside your ear moves and this pushes out any excess wax.
You may have been told that you should not put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear and it is true. If anything foreign is put into the ear to “clean” it, the pH level will change, causing the body to produce more wax. If you use cotton buds, they push the wax down and compact it further into your ear. The same happens with in-ear headphones.
If you put oil in your ear, it just makes a melted, soupy wax, which will remain until you can have it professionally removed – it completely blocks the ear and you will feel as if you are underwater. If you do have a problem with the over-production of wax, get it checked. A doctor can look inside your ear and use microsuction to remove the wax safely.
The best advice is to leave your ears alone, and the wax will just fall out naturally. If you are concerned, have them checked every year or two. Your ears are not only there to aid communication, but they also affect your balance – so you need to take special care of them.
Vincent Howard, director of audiology at Hearology and a hearing and balance specialist, was talking to Ammar Kalia