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Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Your frustrated and getting crankier by the minute. This silly ear wax problems is driving you nuts, but there is no way your going to the doctor. Taking matters into your own hands, you tried the Debrox ear wax removal product and now all you hear is a crackling sound!
Has this happened to you?
If so you are not alone. Many people try to take matters in their own hands when it comes to ear wax removal. Debrox is the #1 pharmacist recommended earwax removal product, so why do you have these issues?
1. Can ear wax cause a crackling sound?
Ear wax itself will not cause a crackling sound. However, if your body is producing too much ear wax (also known as cerumen) you can have some of the following symptoms:
- Muffled sounds
- Feel like you head is stopped up
- Ears may feel plugged
- Ear pain
- Ringing in the ears
Ear wax is good!
Many patients complain about ear wax, seeing it as gross when they see it on a q-tip. Don’t feel this way!
The outer ear canal has glands that are supposed to produce ear wax. This is one way our body can protect our ear canal. Ear wax serves the following purposes:
- Prevent bacteria and fungus growth
- Traps dust and dirt
The American Academy of Otolaryngology (An organization of doctors that specialize in ear related problems) have much more information on their site including these important Do’s and Dont’s on earwax.
2. When does ear wax become a problem?
If excess ear wax is produced problems can arise. It can harden and become impacted in the ear canal. This happens more often in children and older adults. Excess production of ear wax seems to ramp up as we get older. Hearing aids can also cause impaction of ear wax, which again puts the elderly at increased risk.
Problems also arise when people try to clean their ears with Q-tips or cotton swabs. In an effort to remove ear wax, they actually push the wax from the external ear down into the canal. This is where it can become impacted and lead to the symptoms described above.
Stay away from Q-tips or limit their use to no more than once a week.
3. Why do I hear a crackling noise in my ear?
If you have used Debrox for your ear wax problem you more than likely have heard the crackling noise. Never fear, it is not a bad thing other than being a little bit annoying.
Carbamide peroxide, the active ingredient in Debrox is the cause. This peroxide actually gives off oxygen as it interacts with the wax in your ear. That action so close to your ear drum is loud enough for people to hear and they describe it as a crackling sound.
What the oxygen release is doing is helping to foam up the ear wax. This makes it easer to soften the wax all the way through. Ultimately, that will result int the wax being able to be removed from the ear.
4. How do I stop my ears from crackling?
The crackling can be disturbing, but remember it is working to soften the wax in your ear. The longer you let it work the easier it will be to remove.
Tilting you head so that drops can run back out will sometimes make the crackling noise go away. However, if it continues you will need to flush your ear with some lukewarm water. Typically between 3-5 ounces of water works best for this.
5. How do you unclog ears after using Debrox?
Lets say you put the debrox drops in your ear, waited and the crackling noise is gone, but now your ears are clogged. What can you do?
Think about what is going on in your ear for a minute. A large hard clump of ear wax that was very dry has just been moistened by the debrox. In the process it may foam up as well. That process can actually lead to a temporary backup in the ear canal that makes you feel like your ears are clogged.
This can be frustrating and make it harder hear out of the affected ear! So what should you do?
6. Flush your ear
The Debrox product I recommend is the kit that comes with a soft rubber bulb ear syringe. Your going to need to use that with warm water and flush the ear. Think of it as you softened the wax up, but it isn’t ready to flow out of your ear like water. But if you flush it with water and a small amount of pressure it may run out.
Not all Debrox products have the bulb syringe to flush the ear. You want to make sure you get this as it will make you much more likely to clear the ear of the wax causing your problem.
In addition to buying the product with the bulb syringe, you also want to get the lowest price option. Most of the time a generic will be cheaper. However, when looking for a kit with an ear syringe the best deal is the Debrox kit on Amazon.com. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have store brand generics, but they are slightly more expensive than Debrox.
7. Do you have to flush ear after Debrox?
You don’t have to flush the ear after using Debrox, but it seems that patients who do are happier with the product. After letting Debrox sit in the ear there may not be anything to clear away with a tissue in the outer ear. However, typically after flushing you will start to see a waxy color on a tissue or wash cloth when wiping the outer ear clean. This gives people hope that the product is working after all.
Being patient and using as directed
In this instant gratification world we live in, most people don’t want to wait for ear wax problem relief. After instilling the drops and waiting 2 to 5 minutes most get upset that their ears are not immediately back to normal. Keep in mind the following:
- Debrox is recommended to be used twice a day.
- Keep head tilted after using Debrox so the liquid stays in the ear canal.
- The more times you use Debrox, the more likely the ear wax will come out.
- Leaving the product in the ear will allow foaming and moistening for longer periods can help the chances of ear wax removal.
- Ear wax may fall out at night while sleeping, especially if you sleep on your side.
8. How do you properly flush out Debrox and stop the crackling sound?
Let’s face it, flushing out your ear is not something you do a lot. Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure you do it correctly. The inner ear controls balance centers in the brain. The bones in the inner ear can actually make you feel quite dizzy or nauseous if not cared for properly.
Here are two methods for flushing the ear.
1. In the shower
If you have time apply the drops prior to taking a shower. Then lay with your head tilted so the drops do not run out. Take your shower and let the warm steam from the shower help to moisten the ear wax even more. Before you get out of the shower, suck up some warm shower water (not hot) in a bulb syringe. Sit down if you have a place in the shower to do so, or place a hand against the wall. This will prevent you from falling if the ear flush makes you dizzy. Put the syringe just outside the ear canal and squeeze the bulb to expel the water. Simply tilt your head and let the water and hopefully wax drain out.
2. Sitting or laying down
Make sure you get a cup with warm, not hot water and your bulb syringe. You should get enough water to rinse the ear several times. Place a towel on your shoulder to catch the water as it drains out of your ear. Again place the syringe just outside the ear canal, not inside. Squirt the water in the ear with your head straight up. Start with a gentle squirt and then you can increase the intensity as you feel comfortable.
Remember you may need to use the product twice a day for up to five days, stay patient!
You can wipe the outer ear with a tissue or wet wash cloth to see if any ear wax residue is coming out. Once you start to see little bits it won’t be much longer until your ear is unclogged.
9. What else will dissolve ear wax?
The normal process is for ear wax to capture dust and dirt, accumulate and then fall out of the ear naturally. However, when this doesn’t happen or impaction occurs it is necessary to try and dissolve the hardened ear wax.
Debrox contains carbamide peroxide which is similar to hydrogen peroxide. Both types of peroxide release oxygen that leads to a foaming effect on earwax. This foaming may help dissolve the wax in addition to softening it. This makes it easier for the wax to be removed.
Several other products are available that can be used to soften built up ear wax. Studies have shown that most topical ear wax treatments are better than no treatment. The American Academy of Otolaryngology also suggests that most people do respond to an over the counter product.
The table below lists how they work and relative cost.
|How does it work?
10. How to Prevent Excessive Earwax
Some people have a more earwax production than others. If you fall into this category then it would be a good idea to do a few preventative measures to make sure your ears don’t get clogged in the first place.
While there are no proven ways to prevent earwax buildup a couple of best practices include:
- Do not use Q-tips. They end up pushing the wax farther down in the ear canal and lead to impaction.
- Consider using a wax removal once a week. Many find this is easy to do while showering. The idea is to keep wax softened so it can fall out more naturally.
- Ask your doctor. Some people may benefit from having wax removed at a regular interval to prevent excessive build up.
11. When to go see your doctor
There may come a time when you need to go to the doctor about the ear wax problem. If you have given a foaming or softening product time to work (twice a day for five days) and still no result, it is time to see your doctor. The table below lists examples of when you should call even if you have not used over the counter products for five days yet.
|Loss of balance
|Nausea or vomiting
|Pus or drainage from ear (not ear wax)
|Full or partial hearing loss
|Feeling of plugged ear after 5 days of ear wax removal product
|Ringing in ear (Tinnitus)
|Itching in ear
|Odor from ear
|Recent ear surgery
|Tubes in ears
Doctors will likely want you to try over the counter products first for five days unless you have one of the symptoms above. The doctor would take advantage of these products softening the wax prior to an appointment. Most would then flush the ear in the office. If that does not work you may be referred to an ENT who could use other tools to remove the wax.
Remember, ear wax crackling sounds from debrox or another product is not a reason to see your doctor.
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Share your story
Have you had crackling ears? Also, let us know if you were able to fix your ear wax problems? Please chime in below with your comments and thoughts.