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Safest ways to clean your ears

If you're like most people, earwax is something you never think about, but maybe you should. This yellowish secretion protects your inner ear from potentially damaging things, like sand, dirt, and insects.

But too much earwax can make hearing difficult. In extreme cases, it can block the ear canal. Having very hairy or narrow ears can make the problem even worse.

If you're having trouble with earwax, follow this advice from the experts.

Toss aside the cotton swabs. Did your mother ever tell you not to stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear ? She was right. Trying to pick at earwax with your fingers, tweezers, or other sharp objects could cause serious injury. Even cotton swabs are a no-no. Doctors say a swab is more likely to push the wax deeper into your ear.

Flush it away. Fill a bowl or bathroom sink with warm water. Using a rubber ball syringe, turn your head to one side and flush one ear at a time with water, dropping the water in gently. Never apply more than just the slightest bit of pressure. Remember, you're trying to soften the wax, not blast it out.

Try a drop of oil. If warm water hasn't done the trick, try a different approach. Use an eyedropper to place a couple of drops of oil -- baby, vegetable, or mineral -- into your ear. Hold it in with a cotton ball for a few minutes, then wipe away the excess. Over a day or two, the oil should start to break up the wax. You can also use this technique with hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, or a warm water and vinegar solution.

Chomp down on buildup. Your body's natural defense against earwax buildup isn't an active pinkie finger -- it's chewing. The chewing motion of your teeth and jaw actually breaks up earwax and keeps your ear canal in good working order. People who don't chew their food well often have trouble with earwax.

Cut back on fat. If you need another reason to cut the fat out of your diet, here it is. Research has shown that saturated fat, found mostly in foods of animal origin, causes your ears to produce too much earwax. So take it easy on your hearing while you take it easy on your heart -- cut back on saturated fat.

     
     

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