It’s itchy, disgusting and it may be a sign of an internal infection. Here’s how you can get rid of ear wax safely.

Ear wax build-up is a common problem, and it occurs in every person’s life. It is mostly harmless, and the wax is formed around impurities such as dirt entering the ear canal or a contamination inside the ear. It forms as a soft brown mass that gradually comes out to the opening of the ear, from where you can easily extract it.

However, some people experience abnormal amounts of ear wax build-up, which may impair their hearing and block the ear canal till it is cleared. This may be caused by an underlying ear infection, and must be treated medically. Here are some steps to help you get rid of ear wax:

Do nothing. Ear wax can build up as a normal course of action when the ear cleans itself. It is a discharge that eliminates wastes and dirt trapped inside the ear canal. Normally, the wax will travel towards the ear canal opening and signal its arrival with a sharp itch. Wrap a tissue paper around your little finger and gently remove the wax. Never use ear buds to clean your ears, because they might push the wax further in and cause injury and infection. If you’ve been working or living in polluted environs, the wax build-up will be higher than normal. As long as your hearing is fine and there is no itch or pain inside your ears, you don’t need to take further action.

Check if you ears are blocked. Sometimes, ear wax hardens and you may be unable to remove it yourself. You might experience a temporary blocking in your ears where your hearing may be abruptly impaired. Don’t panic, just see your doctor. He or she will simply suction out the wax or other trapped impurities with a suction cup, or if you have developed dry wax, the doctor will prescribe ear drops to be used for a week. Once the wax softens, it can be removed easily.

A blast of water for stubborn wax. Doctors use a special jet spray to ease a stream of water gently inside the ear canal to irrigate the ear and displace the wax, which is then suctioned out. While cleaning your ears during a shower, pull on the outer ear and ease a thin stream of water into the ear, then tilt your head sideways to drain the water out. Don’t be alarmed if the water comes out hot and thick – this means that it reached inside and brought the dirt out.

Keep them clean. Prevent the accumulation of dirt and water inside the ear by putting two drops of baby oil inside each ear with a dropper. The oil will loosen the wax and protect the ear canal. You might want to protect your ears with flaps or roll a small length of cotton and plug your ears.