Article by Hearing Partners, contributed by Sadrina Shah, Clinical Audiologist at Hearing Partners
Ear drops are liquid medications commonly used to alleviate various ear-related issues, such as excessive earwax, ear infections, or inflammation. They can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist.
In this guide, we’ll share step-by-step instructions on how to use ear drops correctly and what to avoid when using them. We’ll also highlight some potential side effects of these medications and answer your frequently asked questions about ear drops.
When to Use Ear Drops
It’s recommended to consult an ENT professional for advice before using any ear drops.
For ear infections
In the case of an outer ear infection, ENT professionals often recommend the use of ear drops containing antifungal or antibiotic properties. These specialised drops are designed to combat the infection effectively.
Ear drops containing topical steroids may also be recommended to address pain, itching and swelling in the ear.
For ear pain
When it comes to alleviating ear pain, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are often the go-to medications. However, over-the-counter pain relief ear drops can also be an alternative solution. Before using such ear drops, it’s best to consult an ENT professional to ensure that they’re suitable and safe for use.
For ear wax removal
These drops can be categorised into 3 types: water-based, non-water-based, and oil-based. It’s crucial to carefully follow the instructions provided on the product packaging to ensure proper and safe usage of the drops.
After applying the ear drops and allowing sufficient time for them to take effect, it’s important to gently rinse your ear canals with warm water. Some products even provide an ear syringe to facilitate this step, making it more convenient for you.
For itchy ears
Some ear drops may contain both anti-infective medications and corticosteroids so you can tackle both the infection and the itch at the same time.
Steps for Using Ear Drops Correctly
However, it’s crucial to note that specific instructions may vary depending on the product, so you’re recommended to carefully read and adhere to the instructions provided on the product label. It’s also best to consult your ENT doctor before using the drops.
Step 1: Wash your hands
Step 2: Warm the bottle
Step 3: Shake the bottle and remove the cap
Step 4: Tilt your head or lie on your side
Step 5: Pull your ear backwards
If you’re administering the drops for children under 3 years of age, gently pull their lower ear downward and backwards.
Step 6: Apply the ear drop
Once the drops are applied, softly massage the small skin flap over the ear, known as the tragus, so that the drops flow into the ear canal properly. To ensure the medication remains in the ear and to prevent any leakage, keep your ear tilted or continue lying on your side for approximately 5 minutes.
Step 7: Cap and store the bottle away
Proper storage of ear drops is crucial, and here are some guidelines to follow:
- Store them in a cool, dry location, away from direct sunlight.
- Ensure the ear drops are kept out of reach of children.
- Certain ear drops may require refrigeration, while others should be stored at room temperature. It’s important to consult your doctor to determine the specific storage requirements for the ear drops you are using.
What to Avoid When Using Ear Drops
Avoid using expired ear drops
Avoid touching other surfaces with the dropper
Avoid using a damaged dropper
If you notice that your dropper is cracked, chipped or dirty, it’s best to replace it with a new bottle of ear drops. Cracked or chipped droppers can cause ear injuries, while dirty ones can result in ear infections.
Avoid sharing ear drops
Possible Side Effects of Using Ear Drops
Additionally, while serious complications are uncommon, it’s important to reach out to your doctor if you encounter any of the following after using ear drops:
- Onset of new or worsening pain
- Redness or swelling around the ears
- Allergic reactions such as rash, dizziness, or difficulty breathing
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (a ringing sensation in the ears)
FAQs About Using Ear Drops
Is there ear drops for tinnitus?
If you’re seeking help for tinnitus, get in touch with us today.