It seems like every other day, I see something on TikTok that teaches me something new about this weird skin suit we call the human body, and — wouldn't ya know it — it's happened again!
This time, it was Ayisha Friedman-Negrín's (aka @ayishafrita) TikTok showing how she "properly" cleans her ears by pouring hydrogen peroxide into them. So far, it's been viewed over 14 million times:
In the video, she pours the peroxide into her ear and let's it "sizzle" to separate and remove the ear wax...
...and then, she tilts her head into a towel and lets it all run out.
Since I absolutely despise the feeling of anything liquid in my ear, my immediate thought was, "No thanks." BUT I was genuinely curious about whether or not cleaning your ears with peroxide is actually safe and effective (especially since it's been established that Q-tips ain't the business). So, I reached out to Dr. Tonia L. Farmer, MD, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon from Warren, Ohio.
Dr. Tonia told BuzzFeed that not only is this method safe, it's actually something she uses in her own practice. "I use peroxide in my office to assist with earwax cleaning almost every day. It's generally safe to use in the ear canal. However, I stress that peroxide shouldn't be used if there is a hole in the eardrum from a perforation or ear tube. Using peroxide in these cases should only be done by or under the direction of a medical provider."
For removing ear wax at home, Dr. Tonia recommends putting 5–10 drops of hydrogen peroxide into the ear canal, laying like Ayisha in the TikTok for 5 minutes. Then, you should sit up and tilt your head so the peroxide and wax can run out of your ear. She also recommends using a towel, just like Ayisha does!
And something she does NOT recommend? Q-tips. "Using [Q-tips] pushes wax deeper into the ear canal instead of removing it. Continued Q-tip use, pushing wax deeper and deeper, will eventually cause wax impaction. This can cause pain, hearing loss, and even cause a perforation or hole in the eardrum. Also, the skin of the ear canal is delicate and Q-tip use can cause bruising or scratches of the skin. This can lead to an ear infection."
"The ear canal is actually self-cleaning to some degree. Wax is pushed to the opening of the ear canal by the normal chewing motion of the jaw, and tiny hairs lining the skin help keep wax from getting deeper into the canal. Using Q-tips can shear the hairs and disrupt the normal self-cleaning capabilities of the ear. So, if I had to recommend the use of peroxide or Q-tips, I'd choose peroxide."
Also not recommended: Bobby pins, pen caps, paper clips, etc.
However, Dr. Tonia also told BuzzFeed the frequency/need for cleaning our ears is super dependent on the person and their wax buildup. "Like I said, our ears naturally clean themselves. Wax is beneficial. Think of it as a barrier or filter for dirt, bacteria, and bugs! Earwax is antibacterial and helps lubricate or moisturize ear canal skin. Now, earwax can get out of hand. Some people make more wax than others, and some make wax that's too dry. In these cases, managing wax buildup regularly with wax softening drops like peroxide, mineral oil, or over-the-counter Debrox is necessary to keep healthy, functioning ears."
So, in closing: peroxide good, Q-tips bad. Happy ear cleaning!
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