In many different ways, individuals may remove excess earwax. One basic and reliable strategy is to use ear drops. Many ear drops that are commercially available contain hydrogen peroxide.
While hydrogen peroxide can help reduce excess earwax, it can irritate the skin within the ear by using too much and lead to other problems.
Earwax is a waxy material formed in the ear canal. While it is usually nice to have earwax, it protects and cleans the ear canal, too much earwax can cause problems.
Earwax problems account for about 12 million visits to doctors’ offices and 8 million earwax removal procedures, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
We discuss why a person can put hydrogen peroxide in their ear in this article and what can happen if they use too much.
Why put hydrogen peroxide in the ear?
Cerumen is the medical term for earwax. Hydrogen peroxide is an earwax softening and dissolving cerumenolytic solution. In order to remove excess earwax, a person can use hydrogen peroxide or hydrogen peroxide-containing ear drops.
Typically, the ears contain enough earwax to cover the ear canal and clean it.
Ceruminous glands, so-called specialized glands, secrete fats and acidic substances that protect the ear against infection. Within the ear, these secretions trap dead skin cells, dust and dirt. The waxy substance commonly known as earwax is produced by this mixture.
Earwax is normally forced out of the ear canal when a person moves his or her lower jaw while speaking or eating. Earwax, however will accumulate in the ear canal if this natural method of cleaning fails.
Factors that can cause excess earwax include:
- wearing hearing aids
- wearing in-ear headphones
- cleaning the ear with cotton buds
- structural abnormalities of the ear canal
It may form a plug if too much earwax accumulates in the ear, resulting in a condition known as cerumen impaction. Cerumen impacts affect an estimated 6 percent of the general population and more than 30 percent of older adults, according to the writers of one 2020 study.
Impacts of excess earwax and cerumen can lead to issues such as:
- hearing difficulties
- tinnitus, or ringing in the ear
- a feeling of fullness in the ear
- ear infection
- ear drainage
Risks of too much
Ear drops may contain various forms of hydrogen peroxide or other earwax softening substances.
Carbamide peroxide is a popular type of ear drops with hydrogen peroxide. These drops in the earwax release oxygen, causing it to bubble. The oxygen addition softens the plug, making it easier to remove.
Hydrogen peroxide, in general, if used properly, has a reasonable safety profile. Most hydrogen peroxide solutions that are over-the-counter (OTC) contain purified water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. 6.5 percent carbamide peroxide is found in OTC ear drops.
At low concentrations, hydrogen peroxide is usually safe. Some individuals can however, experience side effects, including:
- temporary fizzing or bubbling sensation
- bitter taste
- temporary pain in the ear
- temporary hearing loss
Hydrogen peroxide can result in residual bubbles within the ear canal, according to a 2018 report. Doctors can have trouble inspecting the inner ear if this occurs.
Skin irritation and blistering can be caused by hydrogen peroxide. At concentrations above 10 percent, it may also cause burns .
It can irritate the skin within the ear by using too much hydrogen peroxide, contributing to inflammation and earaches.
If they have an ear infection or a damaged eardrum, people shouldn’t use ear drops.
When using ear drops, people should always obey the manufacturer’s directions or the advice of a doctor. At one point, they should not put more than 10 drops in your ear. For up to 4 days, people can put 5–10 drops in each ear twice daily.
With warm water or a bulb syringe, a person can flush out excess hydrogen peroxide and earwax.
If they experience ear irritation or pain or if the drops do not improve their symptoms, a person should see a doctor.
If used alone, hydrogen peroxide ear drops can not extract enough ear wax. In this situation, with an ear syringe, an individual may want to consider rinsing the ear.
At their local drugstores or via online retailers, people will find ear syringes. They should always follow the directions written on the label of the product.
Other earwax softeners may be used by people, such as:
- acetic acid
- docusate sodium
- sodium bicarbonate
- ear drops containing camphor, almond, or mineral oils
For 2-3 days, put a few drops in the affected ear twice per day. This will allow the earwax to loosen. Fill the bulb syringe with lukewarm water or with a combination of water and saline.
Place the syringe tip near the opening of the ear and pinch the syringe bulb gently. This will drive into the ear the water within the bulb.
To allow any excess water and wax to flow out of the ear, turn the head to the side. Over a sink or bathtub, people will want to do ear irrigation.
With a foreign object, such as cotton swabs, pens, or paper clips, individuals do not attempt to extract wax. Doing so will force the wax into the ear canal further.
When to contact a doctor
An individual may also want to consider consulting a doctor if they have elevated earwax that causes:
- ear pain
- hearing difficulties
- ear drainage
If OTC or at-home remedies don’t work, people can also seek medical attention.
A common ingredient in OTC ear drops is hydrogen peroxide. It is an earwax softening and dissolving cerumenolytic solution.
However if a person uses it too often, hydrogen peroxide may irritate the skin within the ear canal.