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Some people use a few drops of olive oil to reduce earwax buildup or treat an ear infection. While more research is needed, it may be safe to give this home remedy a try.

Olive oil is one of the most common cooking oils and a staple in the Mediterranean diet. It has many health benefits too, including lowering your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.

It’s also a traditional remedy for removing ear wax and treating ear infections. Read on to learn more about the effectiveness of using olive oil in your ears and how to try it for yourself.

For ear wax

Ear wax is produced by glands at the entrance to your ear canal to lubricate and protect your skin. It usually doesn’t need to be removed. However, a buildup of wax can sometimes affect your hearing, cause discomfort, or interfere with hearing aid use. It can also trap bacteria, increasing your risk of developing an ear infection.

There aren’t many large, high-quality studies about the effectiveness of olive oil for removing ear wax. A 2013 study followed participants who applied olive oil to their ears every night for 24 weeks. Over time, olive oil actually increased the amount of ear wax. However, applying olive oil to the ear just before having a doctor remove extra ear wax did seem to help ensure that all the wax was removed.

When it comes to removing ear wax, it’s best to stick with ear drops specifically designed for removing ear wax. You can purchase these on Amazon.

For ear infection

Some people also use olive oil to treat ear pain caused by an infection. Olive oil does have some antibacterial properties, but it’s unclear whether it kills the types of bacteria that cause ear infections.

Still, a 2003 study found that herbal ear drops containing olive oil helped to reduce pain from an ear infection in children. Keep in mind that these drops also contained soothing herbs, such as lavender and calendula, in addition to olive oil.

While there’s no clear evidence about the effectiveness of olive oil on its own for common ear problems, it’s also not associated with any serious health consequences, so you can still try it to see for yourself.

To apply drops to your ear, use a glass dropper or you can dip a cotton swab in olive oil and allow the excess to drip into your ear. Don’t put the cotton swab or any other object in your ear.

You can use room-temperature olive oil, though some people prefer to warm it up in a pan over low heat. Make sure to test the temperature on your skin first. The oil should be just slightly warm, not hot.

Follow these instructions to safely apply olive oil to your ears at home:

  1. Lie on your side with the affected ear facing up.
  2. Gently pull your outer part of your ear back and up to open your ear canal.
  3. Put two or three drops of olive oil in the opening of your ear.
  4. Gently massage the skin at the front of the entrance to your ear canal to help the oil work its way in.
  5. Remain on your side for 5 to 10 minutes. Wipe away any extra oil that drips from your ear when you sit up.
  6. Repeat in the other ear if needed.

Tailor the application to your need, and contact your doctor if you aren’t seeing the desired results:

  • For ear wax removal, do this once a day for one or two weeks. If you’re not feeling any relief by then, contact your doctor. Remember, long-term use of olive oil in your ear may lead to even more built-up wax.
  • To treat an ear infection, do this twice a day for two to three days. If your symptoms aren’t getting any better after a few days, or you develop a fever, see your doctor.

It’s important to choose a high-quality olive oil if you’re using it for medicinal purposes. When choosing an olive oil, look for extra virgin olive oil. This type of olive oil isn’t chemically processed, (processing can reduce some of its therapeutic benefits).

You can also purchase olive oil–based herbal ear drops. These contain extracts from medicinal plants, such as garlic, that might provide added benefits. You can purchase these drops on Amazon.

While olive oil is generally safe, there are a few precautions you should take when using it in your ears.

Don’t use olive oil or any other product in the ear if you have a ruptured ear drum. If you’re not sure if you have a ruptured ear drum, see your doctor before using any remedy in your ear, including natural remedies.

Don’t place cotton swabs or any other object inside the ear to remove wax or relieve itching. This can easily damage your ear drum or push wax deeper into your ear. Putting cotton swabs in your ear also increases your risk of developing an ear infection. It’s also responsible for sending thousands of children to the emergency room with ear injuries each year.

Finally, make sure to use only room-temperature or just slightly warmed olive oil to avoid burning the delicate skin in your ear.

Olive oil may have some benefits for your ears, but it can sometimes do more harm than good, especially when it comes to removing ear wax.

You can try using it for a short period of time for both ear wax removal or ear pain from an infection, but make sure to follow up with your doctor if your symptoms don’t start to improve within a few days or weeks.

You should also steer clear of this natural remedy if you have a ruptured ear drum. Choose another approach that is better supported with research.