DEAR DR. ROACH: In a recent column, you said that using peroxide in the ear is a bad home remedy. Would you please expand on this subject? My children grew up with me using peroxide to clean excessive wax from their ears, and they now use the same remedy on my grandchildren.
ANSWER: Most earwax does not need to be removed. It should be removed only when there are symptoms (such as poor hearing, ear pressure or pain, and sometimes itchiness or dizziness), and when it is clear that the symptoms are coming from excess earwax. This requires a look in the ear, since similar symptoms may come from infection.
Hydrogen peroxide is too harsh to put on skin. Doctors may use it to irrigate the ear canal while looking into the ear, but it is diluted, usually 1:10. Over-the-counter earwax preparations, such as carbamide peroxide, may also be recommended once the diagnosis is clear.