How to clean ears with olive oil

How to use olive oil in the ears and the risks involved
Last update on May, 15, 2023

Olive oil for ears

The use of olive oil to treat the ears is a commonly employed natural remedy among individuals of all age groups. The oil is rich in beneficial properties and, in some cases, can help remove earwax plugs that form in the event of excess earwax.

However, in some cases, it is not recommended to use it, especially if there is an overt ailment: the hot oil may inflame the ear more, even leading to temporary deafness. If the pain persists, or if there is a high fever, it is always a good idea to seek medical advice and not to underestimate the problem, which can cause damage to the auditory system if neglected.

Olive oil & earwax

The practice of using olive oil to eliminate earwax is a prevalent and effective home remedy, often recommended by grandparents. Additionally, in certain cases, it may help alleviate pain associated with ear infections.

Earwax removal

Ear wax is essential for our ears as it helps keep them clean and healthy. Earwax not only lubricates the auditory tract of the ear, reducing the risk of itching and burning, but it has antimicrobial effects and an antibacterial action that protects the ear against fungus. However, earwax can easily accumulate in the ear canal. In some instances, due to hygiene or medical issues, earwax may become trapped within the ear canal, resulting in a blockage that can disrupt the balance of the canal, heighten the likelihood of infection, and even cause complete blockage in severe cases. Common symptoms of this condition include sensations of ear fullness, itching, pain, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Dissolution of earwax

Using olive oil to dissolve wax can be a great natural remedy for removing the earwax excess, as it helps to dissolve the surplus earwax and mucus, the real culprits of inflammation. The process of removing earwax with olive oil is quite simple, however it is always best to be cautious. After slightly warming the olive oil, use a dropper to place a few drops into the affected ear while tilting the head. It is necessary to remain in this position for several minutes to allow the oil to work effectively. Alternatively, a small piece of cotton soaked in oil can be inserted into the ear, being mindful not to push it too deeply.

Possible worsening

Olive oil can generally be employed to extract earwax from the ears, but it should be done caution as a few drops of the liquid may become lodged in the canal, settle on the eardrum, and exacerbate pain or encourage infection. Additionally, careless removal of the earwax plug may result in skin damage within the ear canal. Furthermore, in cases of otitis, oil does not alleviate pain, as the eardrum prevents the oil from reaching the ear, and heat may even exacerbate inflammation. The ear naturally produces oily substances that lubricate the ear canal; therefore, introducing an additional lubricant may lead to an excess of earwax production.

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How to use olive oil in your ear

Before inserting the oil into the ear, it is important to warm it up: just a few moments in a small saucepan is enough to bring the liquid to a temperature similar to body. It is essential to be careful not to overheat it to avoid creating injuries.

Once warm, you can choose to use:

  • an eyedropper
  • bit of cotton

In the first case, just pour a few drops into the ear, in the second case, simply soak the cotton and place it in the ear, taking care not to insert it too deeply. In both cases, keep the head tilted for a few minutes to let the product act.

Olive oil in ears: is it effective?

Olive oil is a natural remedy that can assist expel the accumulation of material, however, if the pain does not calm after a few days, it is best to consult a doctor. 

Also keep in mind that in severe cases, oil will not help in any way to eliminate the disorder or the pain. The ear produces its own oily substances that lubricate the ear canal: inserting an additional lubricant without the help of a doctor could lead to further production of earwax.

Olive oil in ears: is it safe?

Using olive oil to remove earwax plugs is generally safe. However, it is essential to observe all the necessary precautions, i.e. do not overheat the liquid, be careful while inserting it into the ear canal and, above all, make sure not to use too much product; the extra oily material could further alter the balance of the inner ear, worsening the pain.

After continued application for a few days, if the pain does not subsede, it is important to contact a doctor to determine how to proceed.

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Risks of olive oil in the ear

Using olive oil to remove ear wax is safe, if it is applied sparingly and not for a long tim. A few drops in the ear affected by the pain are enough to remove the plug, possibly repeating the procedure for a few days.

In cases of more serious infections, the application of olive oil has no benefit and may even lead to unpleasant consequences.

Perforated eardrum

A perforated eardrum, scientifically defined as tympanic perforation, is the tearing of the tympanic membrane. It usually occurs following complications of acute or recurrent otitis media, or trauma of various kinds. If you are certain that you are suffering from a perforation of the eardrum, it is essential to avoid inserting a liquid of any kind into the ear, including olive oil, and to seek the advice of your doctor or ENT specialist.

Possible side effects of using olive oil

Undesirable effects of using olive oil in the ears are rare, but may include itching, dizziness, skin irritation, especially if the liquid introduced is excessively hot, and inflammation of the external auditory canal. 

In general, therefore, it is a good idea to be careful when applying the oil and, if the pain persists, to contact your doctor or ENT specialist as soon as possible.

When to see a doctor

Natural remedies can be effective in alleviating mild conditions, such as earwax plugs in the ear cavities, or some mild redness or infection. If the disorder persists and the condition does not improve, it is always a good idea to consult an ENT specialist to assess the best course of action. In the case of severe pain, such as a ruptured eardrum, or if the pain worsens after treatment, it best to seek medical attention promptly.

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