The Truth About Cleaning Your Ears. Your grooming routine has got a lot of moving parts. From growing the best beard of your life to trying to not look like a bedraggled mess all the time, taming unruly body hair to, well, whatever you’ve got going on below the belt, it can be overwhelming to account for every inch of your body and figure out how to maintain it accordingly. That’s why we’re here: to turn your grooming routine into a science. And today, we’re focusing on your ears. Specifically, how to deal with the stuff inside of them.

Now, maybe you’ve seen that episode of Girls in which Lena Dunham’s eardrum gets up-close and personal with a Q-Tip. If you haven’t though, the gist is this: using cotton swabs to clean your ears is dangerous, since they have a tendency to go astray and cause damage to your fragile hearing machinery. On top of that, they actually encouragethe body to produce more wax by irritating the fragile skin inside the ear. So swabs aren’t the answer. But what should you be using to clean out your ears?

Well, the truth is…nothing. According to the The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, for most people the ear is entirely self-sufficient if left alone, using the movement of your jaw to push wax in the canal outwards. Meanwhile, artificial cleaning methods like swabs, irrigators and “ear candling” (look it up, it’s super weird) only push earwax further into the canal, potentially blocking it and hindering your hearing. So if you’d just let things be, that’d really be best.

We get it, though; that clean-ear feeling can be pretty damn satisfying. So what if you aren’t willing to ditch the Tips? It’s important that you at least use them only where you can see them. That is, using swabs to remove wax from the outer ear and just around the opening of the canal minimizes your risk of doing major damage. However, if you’re pushing the fluffy cotton end into the ear canal to the point that you’ve lost sight of it, you’ve gone way too far for your own good.

And if you can manage to step away from the swabs, there are other, less precarious ways to take care of errant earwax. One good method, according to the American Hearing Research Foundation, is to try an over-the-counter oil-and-peroxide treatment like Debrox. What products like this do is soften ear wax, making it less prone to clogging. Then, using the fizzy action of the hydrogen peroxide, they force it out of the ear canal safely and gently. Sure, the process might be a touch more involved than the fairly mundane task of shoving a stick into your ear—but, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, isn’t your hearing worth that much?

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