How to Clean Your Ears

Eek! There’s a spider in my ear!
My brother called one night because it felt like he had a spider in his ear. First of all, it turns out it wasn’t a spider. It was a little seed. He had been helping on the farm and suddenly it felt like something was moving in his ear. He went to urgent care and they said they couldn’t help him and that he should go to the emergency room. Removing things from an ear canal with a curette or water is something that most doctors do routinely, so that was odd, but whatever. He tried to rinse it out in the sink. That didn’t work and usually it doesn’t because the stream of water is too wide to actually circulate in the ear. A shower head is more likely to work.

Using an Ear Wash Kit
I recommended he try an ear wash kit from the drug store and I gave him one recommendation: Use body temperature water or it will make you dizzy. I also gave him two tips: Pull your ear back to straighten out the ear canal, and place the tip of the bulb in the top of the canal so the water can circulate. What finally worked was straightening the ear canal. This is possible because the outer 1/3 of the ear canal is cartilage while the inner 2/3 is bone. Straightening the ear canal helps the water circulate. Also, the reason a little seed can feel like a spider is because jaw movement causes the cartilaginous part of the canal to change shape a little, so whatever is in the ear canal can move when you smile, open your mouth, or even tilt your head.

Straightening the Ear Canal
To straighten the ear canal, you pull up and back on the ear. You can see how it’s done at 1 min, 10 seconds on this video:

One final tip. Don’t do this if you know you have a hole in your ear drum. If you have pain or it doesn’t work, go see a doctor.