Popular over-the-counter eardrop is toxic to ear cells

August 26, 2008
Volume 05    |   Issue 32

One reason for itching ears and hearing loss is a buildup of earwax. So you might be tempted to try to clean out your ears yourself.

I hope you already know not to try to do that with a Q-tip. You can end up forcing the wax deeper into your ear.

There are also a number of over-the-counter solutions that promise to loosen and remove earwax. But beware. These eardrops are ineffective at best. And they may even be dangerous!

Trolamine polypeptide oleate, otherwise known as Cerumenex, is one over-the-counter eardrop.

But it?s not particularly effective.

A placebo-controlled, randomized study published in 2004 compared the effectiveness of Cerumenex, Murine ear drops, and a saline solution. After treating with one of the three, the patient?s ears were irrigated with lukewarm water. Cerumenex and Murine were no better than plain old sterile salt water at cleaning out earwax.

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Worse than that, a study published in January of this year found that Cerumenex is toxic to cells in the ear. Even a single dose can be harmful.

Cerumenex can cause inflammation in your ears and even damage your eardrum and inner ear. It can even lead to permanent hearing loss.

While Cerumenix is no longer sold in this country, it is available in Canada and Europe. Don?t buy it through the Internet or ask a friend to bring it back from their overseas vacation. It is likely to do more harm than good.

And since Murine works no better than salt water, don?t use it to get rid of ear wax, either.

If you have problems with earwax, try irrigating the ear using a bulb syringe and warm water (slightly warmer than you use in the shower). If that doesn?t work, ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to check it out for you. They are much better equipped to evaluate and treat your condition.

But, whatever you do, stay away from any over-the-counter "solutions."

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


McGill University Health Centre (2008, January 30). Over-the-counter Eardrops May Cause Hearing Loss Or Damage, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/01/080128113212.htm

Roland, PS, et al, "Randomized, placebo-controlled evaluation of Cerumenex and Murine earwax removal products," Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, Oct 2004.

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