Although almost everyone admits to removing earwax from their ear canals themselves with pinkies or paper towels or the old standby – cotton swabs – this doesn’t make it right. Earwax is a big protective element of your body and guards against debris or other objects from getting at your ear canal. Sure, earwax can build up and make you feel less than comfortable, but it’s always safer to let a professional clean out your ears, as common at-home cleaning techniques can be quite harmful, causing impaction and even hearing damage. Following are some of the harmful ways that people are cleaning their ears improperly. You’ll also learn why a cleaning by a professional is a must.

Ear Drops

You’ve probably seen these products at the drug store and wonder if they really work. Most of the time, they may not. That’s because each individual is different in terms of the composition of their earwax and the shape of their ear canal. Instructions call for dripping some liquid into the ear, waiting a certain amount of time, then tilting the head to let the wax out. This method is rendered ineffective due to the reasons stated above, so save your money on a product that may or may not work well.

Cotton Swabs

Part of your routine after a shower may be to stick cotton swabs in your ear to remove the wax buildup. You may even think you’re doing a stellar job of cleaning them out but in truth, you likely have caused yourself future discomfort. You may see a lot of wax on the cotton tip, but what you don’t see is the rest of the wax that got pushed into the ear canal. This can get impacted over time and cause hearing damage in the form of temporary hearing loss. If this happens, don’t try to remedy the situation yourself; head to a doctor.

Ear Candle

This is a harmful way to attempt earwax removal, so don’t even try. These hollow candles, comprised of a fabric that is coated in wax with a long wick, are meant to utilize heat from the flame to create a vacuum in the ear. The goal is to encourage earwax to emerge from the ear but these products often fail to produce the required vacuum, and thus, the results are less than ideal. The real danger comes in the fact that you can burn yourself or light your clothes on fire by accident.

See a Professional for Earwax Removal

The safest way to ensure complete and safe removal of wax is to make an appointment with an hearing instrument specialist and have her do it. Trained in the use of many tools in tandem with experience, you’ll be rid of the annoying earwax that has been building up. Plus, you’ll know you’ve done it the correct way. Your eardrum can also be inspected to determine if there has been any damage caused by earwax. Schedule yourself a future appointment to make sure you continue to get the best in ear canal care.