I’m not here to get into a big controversy about how you clean your ears – I know there are some big opinions out there about using cotton swabs, and we’re not going there.

That said, do doctors even recommend that you do clean your ears? And if so, how often?

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In most cases, ear nose and throat doctors will tell you that the best ways to keep your ears clean and healthy is to leave them alone. Like many other body parts, ears are good at maintaining their own environments.

They use cerumen (aka earwax) to catch dirt and dust particles before they get to the more sensitive parts of your ear, and even though it might feel icky to you when it builds up, it’s necessary.

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Cerumen has antimicrobial properties and cycles out of the body on its own when you do things like chew your food. It dries up and falls out, which is why if you’re going to clean your ears, you should focus on the exterior (and behind them like your grandmother made you in the bath).

And yes, shoving anything into your ear canal can cause damage and potential hearing issues.

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That said, there are instances where a buildup of earwax can cause aches, clogged sensations, and hearing trouble. Even in that scenario, though, you should see a doctor to get it cleared up rather than trying to dig it out yourself.

Now you know more about the wax in your ears than you did before, so go forth and make good decisions, my friends!