Characteristics of earwax vary from person to person and there is a significant hereditary influence on the type of earwax that people develop. There are known genomes that affect earwax. For instance, people of Asian descent are more likely to develop dry, flaky ear wax while Caucasians tend to develop a more sticky, gluey type of ear wax.
To clean the ears at home, use an over-the-counter wax softener then gently irrigate with warm water using a bulb syringe, taking care to avoid occluding the ear canal. Do not use Q-tips, which can pack wax deeper in the ear and damage the ear drum. Also do not use candling techniques which, aside from being a fire hazard, have been proven ineffective in cleaning ear wax. A study was done where ear candles were burned without being inserted in anyone’s ears and they still showed a brown waxy substance inside after burning – a substance which people believed was their ear wax, sucked out by the smoke and heat from the candle.
We see a lot of patients with significant ear wax who come in for ear cleanings. Depending on what is necessary, we may use a suction device or curette to physically remove the buildup or irrigate to flush out the wax.