How to Safely Clean Your Baby’s Ears

baby's ears

As a new parent, there’s so much to learn about your baby! When and how to feed them, how to understand their cries, and how to clean your baby’s ears are just a few of the many things that come to mind. 

While we aren’t your best source for everything else baby related, we are experts in pediatric hearing health. Let’s take a look at basic ear anatomy, how earwax plays a role in ear health, and how to clean your baby’s ears safely and effectively.

Basic ear anatomy

Everything on a baby comes in miniature size. That’s one reason why they’re so cute! But, their tiny size can make some already delicate body parts even more so … like their ears.

The human ear is an amazing organ that’s responsible for both hearing and balance. While the auricle, or outside of the ear, is relatively large and easy to see, the ear’s internal parts are delicate and hidden. These include the eardrum, three small bones known as the ossicles, the eustachian tube, cochlea, vestibule, and semicircular canals.

What’s so important about these tiny internal parts? They’re critical for transmitting sound, equalizing pressure, and influencing balance. And, they can easily be damaged or disrupted by internal or outside forces. For example, trying to clean your baby’s ears with a Q-tip can puncture an eardrum or further impact earwax buildup and cause hearing loss.

Why is earwax so important?

Although many people view it as gross and unpleasant, earwax actually plays a vital role in ear health. Primarily, it’s your ear’s defense mechanism against foreign intruders including dust, dirt, and other particles.

Earwax also contains unique chemicals. These aid in moisturizing the ear canal, helping to prevent dryness and itchiness, but also help to fight off infections. That being said, too much earwax can become a problem if it builds up over time and creates a blockage.

How to clean your baby’s ears without causing damage

The MOST important thing to remember is that you should NEVER put anything inside your baby’s ears, including a Q-tip or your finger. Instead, focus on keeping your baby’s ears clean on the outside and typically, the inside won’t be a problem.

To clean your baby’s ears on the outside, follow these tips:

  • Select a soft washcloth.
  • Wet the cloth with warm water and wring out any excess water.
  • Wipe your baby’s ears gently to remove any dirt, skin buildup, or earwax on the outside but don’t insert the washcloth into the ear.
  • Dab the ear dry with a towel.
  • Clean the washcloth and proceed to the other ear.

It should be noted that some people, including babies, produce more earwax than others. Over time, this can lead to earwax buildup which can be painful, uncomfortable, and even cause hearing loss. Watch for these signs of too much earwax:

  • Rubbing or tugging on the ears
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Earwax blockage that’s easy to see by looking in the ear

If you are concerned about wax buildup inside your baby’s ears, contact your pediatrician or schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists. We are happy to provide safe and professional earwax removal so that your baby can continue to hear well and develop appropriately.

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