Hydrogen Peroxide in Ear-Infection, Wax Removal, Cleaning, How long, Side Effects & Damage

What effect does hydrogen peroxide have when it is put in your ear? Can it be used in the treatment of ear infection, to remove wax or for general cleaning? Does it cause any damage or side effects? Read on to find out.

Hydrogen Peroxide and ear

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical that has been indicated for a number of conditions. This is majorly due to its anti-oxidant and bleaching effect it elicits. It is generally colorless and has no odor. The reason it has the properties mentioned, is the nascent oxygen it has.

hydrogen peroxide ear uses and side effects
A bottle of Hydrogen peroxide

The nascent oxygen is basically a radical and therefore a reactive oxygen species that exhibits high activity. Due to these properties, hydrogen peroxide can be used as an antimicrobial and hence a potential sterilizer and antiseptic. The pathogen on surfaces of objects can be killed and eliminated by altering the integrity of their membranes.

Other than being used as a disinfectant and antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide can also be used for ear infections, routine cleaning and removal of cerumen or ear wax. This activity has been demonstrated in several studies in the National Library of Medicine, in which one study published in 2004 mentioned the beneficial effects of earwax irrigation.

It not only has this beneficial activity, but also has been voted the most cost-effective way to remove ear wax at home. Hydrogen peroxide is potentially dangerous and the dosage needs to be got right before use. In this case, ear drops have been recommended such as in an Australian Family Physician publication, ear wax irrigation in which water is used has been recommended.

The mode of use is discussed further in this article. However, the use of an antioxidant such as hydrogen peroxide was supported and thus recommended by a Cambridge Journal that water alone in irrigation is not enough. It is most effective to add sodium bicarbonate or a medium with an oil. Hydrogen peroxide exhibits the same effect as sodium hydroxide when they come into contact with water.

Dr. Oz has demonstrated in his show and documented a variety of articles that recommend hydrogen peroxide for ear infections and how to clean the ears effectively. He further mentions that it is a safe method to use and even says that hydrogen peroxide is the only germicidal agent composed of water and oxygen and therefore considered the world’s safest sanitizer.

Some of the benefits you stand to get by using hydrogen peroxide for an ear condition include:

Treatment of ear infections

Ear infections can be caused by either viruses, bacteria or fungi. The most common of all is the virus. Infections cause swelling of the Eustachian tube that opens the middle ear into the pharynx.

When this happens, accumulation of pathogens occurs and leads to an infection of other parts of the ear canal.  The infections that may occur include, otitis media, externa and interna affecting the middle, outer, inner ear respectively.

Most children are infected by otitis media as they have narrow Eustachian tubes. This articles looks at how to instill hydrogen peroxide in children.

Removal of wax

Hydrogen peroxide can help in the softening of a plug of wax in the ear canal. Wax can lead to ringing in the ears and partial deafness and therefore should be managed. The conventional treatment used in this wax impaction involves strong and potent ear drops but mild hydrogen peroxide has been shown to be helpful.

Prevention of colds

Infections of the ear, nose and throat are interlinked and could spread through the interconnection they have. Therefore, instilling some drops of hydrogen peroxide to the ear can help in the prevention of growing pathogens. This means that the population present may not be sufficient to result in an infection.

Aftercare in healing piercings

If you have a new ear piercing, you have a wound that may get infected by the normal flora on the skin such as Staphylococcus aureus. Further, you can get an infection from the piercing parlor. Rubbing the area pierced can be beneficial in aftercare and prevention of infections.

Cleans the ear

The use of hydrogen peroxide in ear can help in the removal of debris that accumulate in the ear canal. They also eliminate pathogens reducing the chances of an infection. Therefore, hydrogen peroxide can be used routinely in the cleansing of the ear. You can also use it in the cleaning and disinfecting of an ear piercing.


Hydrogen Peroxide for ear Infection Adult, Middle Ear & How often to use

How can it be used for ear infections in Adults and Kids?

Since hydrogen peroxide can be used for ear infections, you should be able to use it effectively and safely for the benefits to outweigh the adverse effects. Usually, the recommended concentration of hydrogen peroxide for ear infections is 3 %. In fact, you will notice that other preparations of hydrogen peroxide not meant for instilling in the ear are of this concentration.

Hydrogen peroxide is indicated for the prevention of spread of infection into the middle ear canal. To use hydrogen peroxide for ear infection in both an adult and kid, follow the following steps:

  1. Prepare the hydrogen peroxide by diluting it to a suitable factor to a concentration of 3% v/v. This is basically 3mL of hydrogen peroxide in 100 mL of water. Make sure that you have a dropper, cotton ball, alcohol and a warm towel.
  2. Now lie on your bed on one side exposing one ear.
  3. Collect some of the hydrogen peroxide solution from the bulk and instill two to three drops to the ear.
  4. Remain in this position for a few minutes. There is fizzing or foaming with hydrogen peroxide and this may go to as long as 5 minutes. You can squeeze some isopropyl alcohol using a cotton ball into the ear to help with the water removal.
  5. Afterwards, turn and instill the same number of drops of hydrogen peroxide to the other ear. Turning makes the water drain out. Hydrogen peroxide is oxidized to water and oxygen and this water should be left to drain out to avoid accumulation.
  6. The cotton wool should be able to help you in collection of the draining water.


Note that kids have a narrower ear canal and therefore how you instill the drops will dictate its efficacy. If it is a kid, then pull the outer ear downwards then backwards towards the back of the neck then instill the drops. However, if it is an adult, pull the outer ear upwards then backwards towards the back of the neck and instill.

What if it is a middle ear infection

Instilling hydrogen peroxide to an ear with a middle canal infection is not recommended as there is little benefit associated with such use.

middle and outer ear
middle and outer ear

You should therefore not use hydrogen peroxide to treat inner ear infections as this is too close to the eardrum. Otherwise, this could lead to perforation of the ear drum and may even cause partial to total deafness.

Seek medical advice from an ENT specialist.

How often to use hydrogen peroxide in ears?

According to a publication by Northern Health Organization, hydrogen peroxide can interact with antibiotics. The two should therefore not be used together. It is further documented that there should be about a 30 minutes gap before use of either interventions. Otherwise, the antibiotic will lose its efficacy.

Hydrogen peroxide should be used three times a day in outer and middle ear infections. In the case of a co-prescribed antibiotic, use the hydrogen peroxide first then consider the 30 minutes gap. Outer ear infections can be managed by hydrogen peroxide when instilled in both ears 3 times a day for 7 days. Moreover, it could help prevent the use of antibiotics unless the infection is persistent.

If you have wax impaction, then you should use it daily to at least 3 times in 7 days. If the impaction is mild, then you can use it weekly. If you have a scheduled cleaning, using hydrogen peroxide 2 times a day 2 weeks prior could reduce the need for ear cleaning.

Precautions before and after use

There are several considerations before and after use of hydrogen peroxide for ear infections. These are;

  1. You should only use 3 % of hydrogen peroxide and not any stronger. This is the recommended concentration for treatment of ear infections and removal of wax.
  2. You can use hydrogen peroxide for the treatment of outer ear infections but should not be used for inner ear infections. The latter includes middle ear infection as it is near the ear drum.
  3. If you have a punctured ear drum, don’t use hydrogen peroxide as it could lead to a condition known as mastoiditis in which the chemical gains access to the middle ear and the mastoid cavity.
  4. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide too frequently than stated as it may lead to dryness of the ear canal, itchiness and broken skin.


Hydrogen Peroxide Ear Wax Removal

The ear canal could get blocked with wax when it accumulates. This could be caused by cleaning the ear with cotton buds which pushes the wax further inwards. The wax leads to impaction due to the narrowing trend of the ear canal inwards which makes it hard to remove.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used for the removal of impacted or accumulated plug of wax in the ear. Here is how to use it;

  1. Lie on one side of your body on the bed and instill 2-3 drops of hydrogen peroxide solution into the ear.
  2. Remain in this position to allow the fizzing and bubbling effect to go on for a few minutes.
  3. Tilt and turn your head to the other side to allow the solution to drain out.
  4. Repeat this with the other ear.
  5. After 2 days, use some warm water to remove the accumulated debris by instilling it in the ear.
  6. As with the treatment of infections, you can dip a cotton ball into isopropyl alcohol and squeeze some into the ear then let it drain and dry.
hydrogen peroxide ear wax removal
Ear wax removal

If you are using a brand with hydrogen peroxide such as Debrox and Murine, follow the steps above. You should ensure that you follow the directions stipulated in the packaging material. These ear drop solutions can be replicated at home by mixing water, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar in the following ways parts or volumes: 1 part of water to an equal part of vinegar the add a double part of hydrogen peroxide.

Ear Cleaning with Hydrogen Peroxide-Can I use Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean my Ears

You can use hydrogen peroxide to clean your ears as a routine. This method is much better than using cotton buds or any other object to clean your ear canal. They reason this is wrong is that they lead to a deep-seated impacted wax which predisposes to infection. Use the above steps as in the treatment of infections and removal of impacted wax but this time reduce the frequency of instillation to once or twice a week.

However you can use it in the frequency of treating an ear infection in the case of healing a newly pierced ear. This speeds up the healing process aside preventing the incidence of infections. Do it in the following manner:

  1. Make sure that you have washed your hands with an antibacterial soap.
  2. Pick a cotton ball and dip into the hydrogen peroxide solution
  3. Rub it into the pierced ear bore
  4. Then let it dry.

Hydrogen Peroxide Clogged Ear Usage

Unclogging of ear wax can be done by instilling about 1mL to 3mL of hydrogen peroxide solution. Make sure that it fills the ear. With a part of your palm between the thenar and hypothenar muscles, the bump of fascia and muscles below your thumb and small finger. This area forms a triangle that can act as a pump. By pressing in and out of the ear, you can pump out the solution. Allow it to bubble before draining it off the ear.

Hydrogen Peroxide Swimmer’s Ear Cure

Cleveland clinic mentions the use of hydrogen peroxide in the treatment of swimmer’s ear. Richard Freeman, MD, from Lakewood Hospital mentions keeping your ear dry as the best move in the face of swimmer’s ear. However, he adds as part of the do’s, cleaning your ears once in a while with 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.

Swimmer’s ear is characterized by redness and swelling due to an ear infection. Thus, you will use hydrogen peroxide as in the treatment of infections in the previous sections.

How long to leave Hydrogen Peroxide in Ear?

When you have instilled the hydrogen peroxide in the ear, you need to leave it to bubble and fizz until it is finished. This might take about 2 minutes. Therefore, you can leave hydrogen peroxide in the ear for this period of time then drain afterwards. However, you may only be slightly able to tolerate the fizzing when you use it for the first time.

Why does Hydrogen Peroxide Bubble in Ear?

Why does it bubble

Hydrogen peroxide results in bubbling as a normal chemical reaction when it gets into contact with certain surfaces. For instance, some transition metals can lead to the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide forming water and oxygen. It is this oxygen that causes the formation of foam and fizz.

What does it mean when it is not bubbling?

When it is not bubbling it could mean that the concentration of the hydrogen peroxide is low. The only way to neutralize the fizzing effect is by diluting it by more factors or by introducing the enzyme catalase. The presence of oxidizing agents in the container used could also make it less fizzy. In rare cases does it fail to bubble.

Hydrogen Peroxide in Ear Side effects, Damage & Safety

Safety- can hydrogen peroxide damage your ears?

It is considered generally safe to use hydrogen peroxide ear drops though in the appropriate amounts. Higher concentrations are only used for industrial purposes and could harm you. Thus, it could potentially damage your ears especially if the infection is in the middle ear or if there is an underlying perforation of the ear drum. It can cause mastoiditis when it enters the mastoid cavity and the middle ear. This is why it is recommended that you use this solution under the care and supervision of a medical professional.

Safety may also rely on the frequency of the instillation. Use the solution as advised otherwise you could risk drying your ear canals and even resulting in corrosive effects and wounding therefore.

Hydrogen peroxide in ear side effects

Side effects that may occur with use of hydrogen peroxide include:

  1. Ear pain
  2. Effusion or fluid from the ears
  3. Partial deafness
  4. Hypersensitivity
  5. Mastoiditis

How to deal with ear pain after using hydrogen peroxide

You can use analgesics or pain relievers to alleviate the pain. Such include the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. paracetamol or ibuprofen. Aspirin should be discouraged in children younger than 20 as it could cause Reye’s Syndrome.

You can also do a cold compress. Cold compress involves dipping a clean cloth in cold water or ice and applying it to the ear. Well, this applies to the outer ear. For inner ear infections, the pain killers will work. There are suggestions to using warm washcloth and applying it to the ear too.

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