How to clean ear wax out of a baby's ear

Any parent is likely to be greatly concerned about their young child’s health and especially so about their small and delicate ears. They are so small in fact that many parents may ask if they are supposed to clean their ears and when or how? 

Do You Need To Clean Your Baby’s Ears?

Usually there is no need to clean out your baby's earwax. Earwax plays an important role in protecting their ears. Earwax contains enzymes that help prevent bacteria and fungus from growing in the ear. It also prevents germs that could cause infection from reaching the eardrum and it stops dirt and dust from entering. Ear wax usually works its way out of the ear canal  to the outer ear naturally.

Is Earwax Buildup Dangerous For Babies?

Earwax buildup in infants is rare. Usually, the ear canal makes the correct amount of earwax it needs. But in some cases, excess earwax buildup can interfere with hearing, or cause pain or discomfort.

How Much Earwax Is Normal? 

If you're wondering how much earwax is normal, there is no typical amount. It's common to see some wax in your child's ears, and one ear may even have more wax than the other. 

"As long as the pediatrician can see through the wax and visualize the eardrum, it is still ok," says Dyan Hes, M.D., medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. "If the earwax is blocking the entire canal, then it is a problem."

How to clean ear wax out of a baby's ear

Use a cloth or tissue to wipe away any wax that has migrated out of the ear canal. After a bath or a shower, instruct your child to tilt their ear to one side against a towel, and then tilt their head to the other, allowing water to drip out on its own.

Ear Cleaning Safety

Cotton swabs are not safe to use on infants or young children. In fact, from 1990-2010, ear cleaning with a cotton swab was the most common cause of ear injury for a child omitted to the emergency room in the United States. More than 260,000 children were affected. Most commonly, these injuries involve an object stuck in the ear, perforated eardrums, and soft tissue injuries. The safest rule to keep in mind is that if you see any waxy buildup or discharge on the outside of the ear, use a warm, wet washcloth to gently wipe it away.

When To Get Professional Help

A buildup can become serious when wax traps water in the ear canal or when a baby's hearing becomes compromised.  If your child is not responding to sounds appropriately or is experiencing pain, or if you see a copious amount of earwax coming out of the canal, seek medical advice about removing the earwax.

Unfortunately kids also  sometimes put little things in their ear canals such as beads, beans, little toys or even play dough. Never put anything in your child’s ear canal to remove a foreign body. Removal should only be attempted by a professional with the proper equipment such as your child’s pediatrician or a pediatric ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. It’s good to have a conversation with young children about never putting anything inside their ears.

How can I clean my child's ear wax at home?

It should be reiterated that earwax is healthy and good, even if it looks a little gross. It only is a problem if it clogs the ear canal completely. If your child’s ears are clogged, don’t use a cotton-tipped applicator to clean the wax because you’ll probably just push the wax in deeper. 

If your child does not have a clogged ear canal, then use a cloth or tissue to wipe away any wax that has migrated out of the ear canal. After a bath or a shower, have your child tilt their head  to one side against a towel, and then tilt their head to the other, allowing water to drip out of their ears on its own.

Keeping your baby's ears clean

It’s important to keep your baby’s ears clean, but you shouldn’t be overly concerned about the presence of ear wax. You can clean the outer ear and the skin around it while you bathe your baby. It’s not safe to use cotton swabs or to stick anything inside your baby’s ear. If you notice earwax inside the ear, you don’t need to remove it. Earwax is healthy for your baby because it’s protecting, lubricating, and has antibacterial properties. Removing it can cause potentially harmful damage.