This article will review the use of ear drops for hearing aid wearers. In general, ears are self-cleaning and pretty low maintenance. However, there are certain occasions where you will need to treat your ears, and this can be more common as a hearing aid user because you’re regularly putting a foreign body in your ears.

Hearing aids (or headphones, or anything else you put in your ears) can push wax deeper into the ear canal, close off what is usually an open airway, and introduce synthetic materials to the sensitive skin of your ear. What ear drops can you use, what are the benefits of using ear drops, and how often can you use ear drops as a hearing aid wearer? Let’s find out.

What Are Ear Drops?

There are a few varieties of ear drops for hearing aid wearers, depending on what you are looking for. Here are some examples of ear drops for hearing aid wearers with different conditions or complaints.

Debrox for ear wax

The ears are generally self-cleaning. Ear wax is produced by the sebaceous glands to gather dust and debris and bring it away from the ear drum. Normal jaw movements that occur during talking, swallowing, and chewing help the wax to move out. Cerumen may also serve to stop some foreign bodies from entering the ear, such as small insects. Everyone has ear wax, but the amount can vary from person to person depending on their body chemistry, the shape of the ear canals, and the amount the ears are stimulated. Ear wax is typically a golden or yellow-brown color and can be dry and flaky or wet and sticky. 

For most people, ear wax gradually works its way out and may simply need to be pulled or wiped from the outer edge of the ear with a warm, soapy washcloth during regular bathing. These days, though, it has become more and more common for us to be putting things in our ears all the time, whether that is AirPods, Bluetooth headphones, or hearing aids. Any time you put something in your ear, there is a risk of pushing wax back into the ear canals.

Wax that has been in the ear canal for a long time could turn from yellow/amber to brown to black. Often, black wax becomes extremely hard and dry and can be challenging and uncomfortable to remove. Impacted ear wax (cerumen) is more common in hearing aid users because of the stimulation to the ear canals and the likelihood that putting the hearing aids or ear molds in the ears is pushing the wax into the ears. 

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There are over-the-counter drops called Debrox, which use Carbamide peroxide as their active ingredient. The drops are placed in the affected ear, and the solution releases oxygen and allows the wax to soften and loosen. The wax can start to naturally work its way out of the ear. The drops can be applied twice a day for up to four days, and you should begin to notice relief. You may still need to see a provider to safely remove the wax if it is impacted in the ear canal.

Large amounts of impacted wax will require several days of Debrox treatment in order to work through the layers, which can often become hard and occasionally adhere to the ear canal wall if it has been in there for a long time. If wax impaction is a regular issue for you, your provider might recommend you use Debrox regularly to manage it. You will have to take some breaks from hearing aid use to allow the wax to come out.

Eargene For Anti-itching/soothing

Just as the skin on any area of your body can become dry or irritated, this can happen to your ears. You can try a very neutral, unscented lotion, or even Aquaphor or Vaseline, ideally at night so that it has time to soak into your skin, and you won’t risk damaging your hearing aids or clogging them with lotion.

A product like Eargene has been specifically formulated for this purpose, so you may wish to give that a try if the dryness/itchiness is confined to your ears. 

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Oto-ease For Ear Mold Insertion

If you use behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids with an ear mold, you know the delicate balance between getting an ear mold that fits snugly enough to provide retention and prevent feedback versus getting one that is so tight that it is difficult to insert and remove.

Oto-ease has been specifically designed for this purpose; a few drops before inserting your ear mold can provide enough lubrication to allow the mold to slide in easily.

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The first ingredient listed is water, so it should be pretty neutral and not irritate your ear or break down your ear mold. If you are noticing a specific pain or pressure point with your ear molds, particularly if there is a red mark or sore in your ear at the end of the day, you should consult your audiologist about modifying the mold to make it more comfortable. You may or may not still need (or choose) to use Oto-ease following the modification. You can get it on Amazon here.

Medicated Drops For Ear Infection

An infection in the middle ear space (otitis media) is usually treated with oral antibiotics such as penicillin. An infection in the outer ear (otitis externa) would be treated with antibiotic drops applied one or two times per day for several days. In either case, the treatment would need to be prescribed by a physician who can diagnose the infection.

How Should I Take Care of My Ears As a Hearing Aid User?

How Should I Take Care of My Ears As a Hearing Aid User

Unfortunately, putting hearing aids in your ears can increase your risk of experiencing all of these issues. First, you are stimulating your ear canals, which causes them to produce more wax. Second, you are potentially pushing wax into the ear canal when you insert your hearing aids.

Third, you are closing off the natural flow of air to your ear canals by wearing hearing aids. Finally, the materials used in ear molds and hearing aids are synthetic and can cause a reaction in the thin, sensitive skin of your ear canals. There are a few steps you can take to lower your risk of ear issues as a hearing aid user.

  • Keep your hearing aids clean and dry. When you remove your hearing aids in the evening, you can wipe them with a soft cloth to remove any wax or debris. Avoid using alcohol-based wipes as they can break down soft materials in ear molds or domes. If you use disposable plastic domes, replace them regularly. You may use a drying kit at night to remove moisture from your hearing aids, as well.
  • Although there is a strong recommendation to wear your hearing aids for all waking hours, if you are experiencing an outer ear infection, you should take breaks from your hearing aids to allow airflow. Bacteria tend to grow in warm, dark environments, and your ear canal can be a very happy environment for infections to brew.
  • If you are prone to wax, talk with your provider about how best to manage it. Do not try to use Q-tips to clean your ears. They may recommend regular Debrox or routine visits to your provider to have the wax removed. Audiologists and physicians have specific tools that they use to remove impacted ear wax safely. They are able to get visibility of the wax using an otoscope and often use a lighted tool called a curette to remove the wax. In some cases, medical-grade suction can be used to pull out large pieces of wax.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Ear Drops?

When used correctly, ear drops for hearing aid wearers should provide relief with minimal risk. However, if they are over-used either in frequency or quantity, they can cause side effects. Your body may also have an unpredictable reaction to drops that have been recommended. If you experience pain, dizziness, tinnitus, or a further drop in hearing after using any kind of ear drops, you should discontinue use and consult your provider.

Ear Drops For Hearing Aid Wearers Take Away

For the most part, your ears are relatively low maintenance, and (hopefully) your hearing aids are, as well. The goal is to put your hearing aids on in the morning and barely notice they are there throughout the day. That said, issues with the ears can arise as a result of hearing aid use. If you experience impacted wax, dryness or irritation in your ears, difficulty inserting your ear mold, or an infection in your ear canal, ear drops for hearing aid wearers can help.

The other drops can be purchased over the counter in drug stores or an online retailer such as Amazon. They are a non-invasive but effective treatment for most issues you might experience as a hearing aid wearer. 

You should consult your provider at the onset of any of these issues prior to purchasing drops to ensure you are seeking the correct solution. For an infection, a prescription from a primary care physician or ENT physician will be required.

erin edwards aud
Clinical Audiologist at Towson University | + posts

Erin Edwards received her Doctor of Audiology degree from Towson University in 2015 and her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership from Pacific University in 2022. She has worked with patients of all ages in a variety of settings and has a specific interest in cochlear implants, the relationship of hearing loss and dementia, and interdisciplinary healthcare.

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