Q: What methods can be used to remove earwax from a child who has tubes in his ears?
A: Nancy Snyderman, M.D., F.A.C.S: Ultimately, it is possible that something may need to be done to remove wax that has hardened or built up. However, the wax itself poses less of a potential problem than using a wax-removal product in a child with tubes or a history of ear infections. Do not do anything on your own. Contact the child’s ear doctor or pediatrician.
On occasion, ear wax, or cerumen, can block the end of the ear tubes. This may keep the tubes from draining fluid out of the ear and preventing repeat middle ear infections (otitis media). Sometimes the ears produce too much wax and it can build up and become impacted. Overly zealous ear cleaning techniques, particularly when using cotton swabs in the ear canal, may push down the cerumen and promote impaction.
For the most part, however, ear wax is healthy and normal and you need not do anything other than clean the child’s outer ear with a washcloth (or, very carefully, with a cotton swab). Our ears produce wax for their own protection, as part of an efficient self-cleaning mechanism. The cerumen traps dust, small particles, germs, even tiny insects that find their way into your ear canal. The debris-laden wax then works its way, ever so slowly, out of the ear.