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  Sanford Downtown Walk-in Clinic
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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
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Sanford East Mandan Clinic

Why do my ears feel plugged and full?

Some people simply have more earwax than others. Earwax protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and preventing the growth of bacteria. In most people, a small amount of earwax regularly makes its way to the opening of the ear, where it's washed away or falls out as new wax is secreted to replace it. If you secrete an excessive amount of wax or if earwax isn't cleared effectively, it may build up and block your ear canal. But when earwax accumulates in your ear and doesnít dissipate naturally, you may experience earaches, ear noise, a feeling of fullness or discomfort in the affected ear and even decreased hearing.

How do I dissolve my earwax?

To soften the wax, use a dropper and apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide in your ear canal twice a day. After one or two days, use a syringe to squirt warm water gently into your ear canal. Tilt your head and pull your ear to let the water get in, then tip your head to the side and let the water drain out. Dry the outer ear with a towel. You may need to do this several times over a period of four to five days.

Will ear candling help keep my ears clear?

Ear candling, a homeopathic method advertised in salons and other places, has resulted in injuries such as burns, ear canal obstructions and even perforations. This technique involves placing a lighted, hollow, cone-shaped candle into the ear to try to remove earwax. The theory is that the heat from the flame will create a vacuum seal and the earwax will adhere to the candle. Research indicates ear candling doesn't work. Talk to your doctor before trying any alternative remedies for removing earwax.

Does it help reduce earwax if I clean my ears regularly?

The ear and eardrum are delicate and can be easily damaged. Donít stick Q-tips or other foreign objects into your ear to try to clean out the wax. In fact, many earwax blockages happen because people have been trying to clean their ears by using cotton swabs or other items, which pushed the wax deeper into the ear instead of removing it. Only a doctor should remove wax from your ears.

At what point do I need to see a doctor?

If you have tried to dissolve the earwax and your symptoms donít improve within four or five days, make an appointment with your doctor, who can safely remove excessive wax and inspect the ear to be sure earwax buildup is the problem. Other medical conditions can cause similar symptoms, so itís important to be examined.

Dr. Thomas Thorson is a board-certified family medicine doctor at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine at Grand Forks, Dr. Thorson completed his residency at the University of North Dakota Center for Family Medicine in Bismarck. He has special medical interest in occupational medicine. To make an appointment with Dr. Thorson, visit or call (701) 667-5000.

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