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One of the most prevalent causes of temporary hearing loss is an accumulation of ear wax, which blocks the ear canal and disrupts hearing. If you are fairly confident that ear wax is the source of your temporary hearing loss, you most likely want to clean out your ears. The real question is how to do this safely, and without damaging the sensitive tissues of your ear or your ability to hear.

To emphasize health and safety when cleaning your ears, let’s begin with what not to do. Don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear. Regardless of whether it’s a cotton swap, Q-tip or other object, you are very likely to make the condition worse by further compressing the ear wax if you start poking around in your ear. One more thing you shouldn’t do is use any product that shoots water under pressure directly into your ears; to do this risks damaging your eardrums. Finally, if you believe you might have either a ruptured eardrum or an ear infection, don’t attempt to clean your ears at home. Have a professional do it instead. Indications of ear infections include vomiting or diarrhea, fluid draining from the ears, ear pain and fever.

To clean your own ears gently in your own home, all you really need is a bulb or syringe, obtainable at any pharmacy, and a rinse solution. Such rinse solutions (labeled carbamide peroxide) are available at drug stores; you can also make your own solution by combining equal measures of mineral oil, 3%-4% and glycerin.

To work with it, lay on your side over a towel or lean over a sink or basin and slowly squeeze the solution into one ear, without actually touching the inside of the ear with the syringe or bulb. Allow the solution to remain in your ear for a few minutes (or, if using hydrogen peroxide, until you stop hearing bubbling), and then repeat the process for the other side.

Once the ear wax has been softened and loosened by the solution, wash each ear once again with lukewarm water, and then dry the outer ears gently with a towel. If your ears still seem obstructed, do this again a couple of times per day for 2 or 3 days. If the issue continues any longer, consult your an audiologist or hearing specialist.