Ear Wax (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is ear wax?
- What does ear wax look like?
- When should ear wax be removed?
- Is it OK to use Q-tips?
- Find a local Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor in your town
Is it OK to use Q-tips?
Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear! Wax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but only in the outer part of the canal near the external opening. So when a doctor sees that a patient has wax pushed up against the eardrum, he or she knows that it is often because the patient has been probing his or her ear with such things as Q-Tips, bobby pins or twisted napkin corners! Such objects only serve as ramrods to push the wax deeper into the ear and can lead to problems.
The skin of the ear canal and the eardrum is very thin and fragile, and is easily injured. The ear canal is more prone to infection after it has been whipped clean of the "good," coating-type wax. Doctors see many perforated eardrums as a result of the above efforts. Some doctors recommend the use of two drops of mineral oil in each ear one day per week at bedtime to help liquefy ear wax in people who have a history of recurrent problems with ear wax. This should only be done if the individual has an intact eardrum and no other known problems with their ears.
Previous contributing author: James K. Bredenkamp, MD, FACS
Last Editorial Review: 3/25/2009
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