I’m not quite sure what happened.

One of my co-workers had mentioned this week that he had to have his ears cleaned by his doctor. A few of us ended up discussing various good and bad ways to clean out your ears: borax, hydrogen peroxide, Q-Tips, etc.

This evening, I decided to clean out my ears with hydrogen peroxide and a warm water rinse, just like Mom used to do. Did it shortly after dinner. One capful of peroxide in the ear, head tilted all the way to the side, with a washcloth standing by for drips. After the fizzing died down, I flipped my head over, washcloth to my ear, and dumped the peroxide out of my ear onto the cloth.

When I came upright again, I felt a little funny. Dizzy, almost. I figured it just had to do with me having my head on its side, and went ahead with the second capful of peroxide. Same thing — I was *really* dizzy when I straightened up this time. But I still had to rinse, so rinse I did. One capful of water in the ear, same way.

Then I was unusually dizzy, but not off-balance. Not too much, anyway. Almost disoriented. Nauseous.

I laid down on the couch to watch World News, then changed to the Food Network to watch Good Eats. Still nauseous.

Even now? Still kind of sick to my stomach. Something went horribly wrong during what should have been a welcome ear-washing experience, and I’m still not sure what.

And I didn’t even get to wash out my right ear.

Update, 8/18/06: I did some Googling to see WTF I ended up doing to myself. Read on to see the sources I found…

From Health A to Z:

Irrigation is the most common method of removing impacted cerumen. It involves washing out the ear canal with water from a commercial irrigator or a syringe with a catheter attached. Although some doctors use Water Piks to remove cerumen, most do not recommend them because the stream of water is too forceful and may damage the eardrum. The doctor may add a small amount of alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other antiseptic. The water must be close to body temperature; if it is too cold or too warm, the patient may feel dizzy or nauseated. After the ear has been irrigated, the doctor will apply antibiotic ear drops to protect the ear from infection.

From the Divers Alert Network:

So, how should you clean your ears? When you bathe, occasionally wash with a bulb syringe, warm soapy water and hydrogen peroxide solution. On a diving trip, use a mixture of half white vinegar and half rubbing alcohol after a day’s diving: this serves to cleanse and dry the ear canal, acidifying or changing the pH balance to make the area less prone to bacterial infection. This can also help prevent otitis externa (swimmer’s ear).

From the Northeast Ear, Nose and Throat Center:

Peroxide Wash for Ears

  1. Tilt your head to one side and fill the ear canal with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Let sit in ear canal and fizzle for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Tilt head over and let fluid run out.
  4. Following the peroxide wash, put a few drops of alcohol into each ear to help dry ear canal.
  5. Repeat on other ear.
  6. Use peroxide ear wash once a month to help soften wax.
  7. Never use Q-tips inside ear.
  8. Take a damp wash cloth and wipe around the outside of the ear only.

So… I’m inclined to think that a.) I used too strong of a peroxide solution, and b.) it wasn’t the right temperature — probably too cold. I haven’t been able to find any support for the idea that it screwed with my inner ear, although I’m still not ruling that out.

I’m still not in a hurry to pour peroxide in my other ear.

7 thoughts on Earwashing

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  1. ok, i should qualify that. not unless a.) we had our first ever “containment leakage” last weekend, and b.) morning sickness manifests only a few days after conception.


  2. What the hell?! You damaged your inner ear! Don’t put peroxide in your ear!

    My mom always used Q-tips and Johnson’s baby oil. Although now I just used Q-tips with water.

  3. *taken aback*

    whoa, dude! i didn’t know! my mom really did used to put peroxide in my ear when i was little. the dude at work said the doctor diluted peroxide to clean out his ears, but suggested he use borax at home. and apparently his doctor also said never to use q-tips. *shrug*

    be assured, i’m never doing *that* again.

  4. Well technically you’re not supposed to use q-tips either (says so on the package!), but who doesn’t. Although.. I was told my a medical professional that q-tips are bad because they can compress the wax into the ear instead of removing it.

  5. Beth is right on the q-tip thing. Q-tips are okay for all the stuff “outside” the ear canal. Personally I prefer to go to the candle shop and buy ear candles myself. I never ever thought I had THAT much wax in my ears! If I can’t do that, and only if it comes up in a “routine” physical examination at the doctor’s office do I allow the doctor to power wash my ears. A yearly physical is important.
    Now if I could do something about this flossing…