Otoscope for Home Earwax Removal

Otoscope-Based Earwax Home Care

As with most medical care these days, there has been a significant push to put more advanced technology into patients’ hands for home treatment. This is very obvious in the self-treatment for ear wax. In fact, while traditional remedies like hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, baby oil, distilled white vinegar and alcohol (for preventative care), and branded products like Debrox are still available, patients can now buy an otoscope-based kit. The otoscope kits sold for home use are similar to the devices we, as ENTs, have traditionally used to visualize the ear canal and the eardrum. Of course, using these traditional tools for home self-care is impossible, so many products use a Bluetooth or USB connection to an app on your phone that allows you to visualize the ear canal. These kits also come with scoop-style earwax removal picks that enable you to target built-up ear wax and remove it from the ear canal.

Our Take

We won't get too deep (pun intended) into how these kits can and should be used because we simply don't believe they are a good option for anyone looking to remove ear wax. While these kits will have various safeguards against pushing too far into the ear canal or scratching the sensitive skin of the ear, there is simply no reason to insert a foreign object into your ear canal at home. At this point, if you intend on spending the money to purchase a kit, we suggest spending a bit more on a copay to visit a medical professional for the sake of your ear's continued health.

What are some potential downsides of using an otoscope ear wax removal kit?

First, an oversight agency does not inspect or approve these ear wax removal kits. Nor are they operated by specialized medical professionals. Despite the great idea behind the device, too much risk is involved. If the device is pushed too far into the ear canal, it can affect the eardrum (even perforating it) or cause further earwax impaction. Further, if not used properly, the device can scratch the skin and cause bleeding, pain and infection.

Is a home otoscope ever useful?

To be sure, there are instances where the home use of an otoscope, with your doctor’s oversight and knowledge, can be helpful. This was certainly the case during the COVID-19 pandemic when patients were not coming into the office. This can also be useful for people who live in remote areas and do not have immediate access to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. However, only devices known and approved by your doctor should be used and only with explicit instructions from your specialist.

The Bottom Line

For many, sticking foreign objects like cotton swabs into the ear is the cause of earwax impaction in the first place. Therefore, we stress that another foreign object should not be used to try to correct the problem. No matter how compelling the technology or how good the reviews are, only a qualified ENT should use tools within your ear.