Ask Dr. Marla: Ear Wax and Your Child

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I have two daughters. One daughter’s ears always get plugged with earwax, the other’s doesn’t. Why do some people seem to produce more ear wax than others and how can I help the one keep her ears clear? When they’re plugged, it really bugs her.

A. We all make ear wax, which is actually in a sense natural protection. The consistency and amount of ear wax can vary from person to person. Sometimes the shape of the ear canal can affect the way our body clears wax from the ear canal. If the ear canal is completely blocked with wax it can affect hearing and give the sensation of a blocked ear. The worst thing you can do is use a cotton swab to try and clear the wax out. In fact you should never insert anything into your child’s ear. This might impact the wax and traumatize the ear canal.
When helping your child bathe, gently wash the outside of the ear. If there is a lot of wax, you can use a dropper to add a small amount of mineral oil to the ears once or twice weekly to keep the wax soft and make it easier for the ear to remove the wax on its own. Should there still be a problem, your doctor can syringe the ear with warm water or use a curette to remove the wax.

Published May 2010

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