Taking care of your ears

CLEVELAND CLINIC - What your mother told you is true, don't stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, including ear candles.

An updated set of ear care guidelines is out and takes a strong stance against ear candling, or ear coning.

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Erika Woodson contributed to the guidelines.

"Ear candling is an alternative medicine technique used to clean the ears of wax, however there's not been any scientific benefit shown and actually several reports of harm," says Dr. Woodson.

Ear candling is a practice where a cone-shaped candle is placed in the ear which supposedly creates a vacuum to suck out ear wax.

Dr. Woodson says one danger lies in hot wax dripping down into the ear canal. The updated guidelines recommend against using ear candles altogether.

Dr. Woodson also says earwax is a normal substance produced to clean and protect the ears. She says ear wax usually falls out of the ear on its own and it's best to let the ears do their job naturally.

She does not recommend sticking cotton swabs, or anything else, into the ear canal.

If ear wax does build up, over-the-counter ear drops may help remove or soften it, however people who have had any sort of surgery on their ears should talk to their doctor first.

The new guidelines also have a greater emphasis on ear care for people who use hearing aids and recommend more frequent ear checks, cleanings and if necessary, ear wax removal by a medical professional.

"The hearing aid sits in the ear canal and so that physically can stop the ear wax from falling out naturally, some patients have an issue with it and some don't, but we just expect that those individuals may need more frequent visits or maintenance," explains Dr. Woodson.

Doctor Woodson recommends calling your doctor if your ear feels full, painful, there's a loss of hearing, or anything draining out of the ear.