Over-the-counter ear drops: types and functions


Treatment is required for a variety of ear conditions, including ear infections , myringitis bullae (an infection of the tympanic membrane), and Eustachian tube dysfunction. In some cases, prescription eardrops or other medications may be needed.

Over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops can be used to relieve symptoms associated with these types of conditions, but there are no over-the-counter ear drops available to treat infections. For other problems, such as wax build-up , over-the-counter eardrops can be used as a possible form of treatment.

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Drops to remove earwax

Excess wax buildup can lead to a variety of unwanted symptoms, including:

  • Fullness in the ear
  • Earache
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears ( tinnitus )
  • Itching inside the ear
  • Ear discharge
  • The smell of the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Ear infections

When the wax builds up enough to cause symptoms, it needs to be removed. This can be done with ear drops. Over-the-counter eardrops are water-based or oil-based. Ear drops to remove earwax usually contain glycerin , mineral oil , and saline solutions. These ear drops may also contain other substances such as carbamide peroxide, baking soda, and acetic acid.

How Ear Drops Work In Ear Wax

All ear drops are designed to break down and dissolve the accumulated wax that is causing problems. The different substances used in the drops act in different ways:

  • Mineral oil: Some over-the-counter ear drops contain different types of mineral oil. Mineral oil softens hard, dry wax, allowing the wax to wash out of the ear when it is soft enough.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin is used to soften accumulated wax in the ears. This helps to remove blockages and buildup, as the wax is removed on its own.
  • Carbamide peroxide: Carbamide peroxide releases oxygen into the ear. The released oxygen creates a foam inside the ear, which softens, loosens and helps remove excess wax.
  • Saline Solution: Saline solution helps soften hardened wax.
  • Baking soda: Because baking soda is an alkaline substance (high pH), it helps remove earwax by dissolving it. This may be due to acid sulfur. The chemical reaction between baking soda and earwax dissolves earwax.
  • Acetic acid: Acetic acid is found in water-based eardrops and helps dissolve wax build-up.

While ear drops can be helpful in removing built-up wax, there are a few drawbacks. For people with sensitive skin, the ear drops can irritate the skin in and around the ear canal. Therefore, they should be used sparingly or as intended.

Some popular over-the-counter ear drops include Polysporin Plus Pain Relief Ear Drops, Biovea Ear Soothing Oil, Hyland Ear Pain Drops, and Mouse Ear Drops. Be sure to read the directions and ingredient list carefully, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're not sure which ear drops are right for you.

Drops to dry liquid (swimmer's ear)

Swimmer's ear, also known as otitis externa , is an infection of the outer ear that affects the ear canal. The condition is caused by water entering the ear, a lack of protective earwax, and trauma to the ear canal.

Symptoms include:

  • Ear pain that may be made worse by pulling or pushing on the ear.
  • Pain that spreads to the side of the face closest to the affected ear
  • Itching in the ear canal
  • Fetid pus of the ear, yellow or greenish yellow.
  • Ear blocked
  • Swelling and redness in the outer ear area.
  • Hearing loss or hearing loss
  • Slight increase in temperature

People with swimmer's ears sometimes use prescription ear drops if the infection requires antibiotic treatment, but over-the-counter ear drops can be used to dry the ears faster. This will help clear the infection.

Ingredients used in ear drops that help dry the ears include isopropyl alcohol or glycerin. The alcohol in the ear drops combines with the water in the ear. The water and alcohol mixture is then evaporated, drying the ear.

If symptoms persist or worsen after using over-the-counter swimmer's ear drops, see your doctor, as you will likely need a prescription.

When you use the ear drops correctly, you will need to lie on your side with the affected ear facing the ceiling. After entering the drops, you will lie in this position for at least two minutes.

Pain relievers (pain relievers) ear drops

Pain relief ear drops can help relieve pain and swelling caused by ear infections. However, they are often not recommended because they do not cure the infection and other pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used.

According to the FDA, these types of ear drops should only be used after careful and careful evaluation of the ingredients they contain. This is because its safety or efficacy for daily use for earache and swelling associated with various ear infections has not been evaluated.

Ingredients that have been shown to cause adverse reactions include:

  • Benzocaine
  • Benzocaine and antipyrine
  • Benzocaine, antipyrine, and zinc acetate
  • Benzocaine, chloroxylenol, and hydrocortisone
  • Chloroxylenol and pramoxine
  • Chloroxylenol, pramoxine, and hydrocortisone

If you are experiencing an earache and suspect you have an ear infection, it is best to use an approved over-the-counter pain reliever and make an appointment with your doctor or other healthcare provider for a checkup.

Conversation Guide with an Infectious Ear Disease Physician

When not to use ear drops

If you have or suspect that you have a ruptured eardrum , you should completely avoid using ear drops. This is because if there is an opening or outlet in the eardrum, chemicals can enter the middle ear and cause damage.

If you have a ruptured eardrum, you may notice the following symptoms:

If you suspect you have a ruptured eardrum, see your doctor and refrain from using over-the-counter ear drops.

Over-the-counter eardrops can help relieve some of the symptoms of various ear infections, but they do not cure the infection itself. To properly treat an ear infection, you should see your doctor. They will help determine what is causing the infection and how severe it is, and will prescribe the appropriate antifungal or antibacterial ear drops.


Ear drops can help treat various health problems that affect the ear. They are generally safe and effective, but you shouldn't use ear drops if you suspect you have a ruptured eardrum. In this case, contact your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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