Ear lavage is the process of removing earwax accumulated inside and around the outer ear, according to PubMed Health. Small amounts of earwax can be removed using a soft washcloth after showering. A larger build-up of earwax can be removed via methods such as ear irrigation and the use of warm olive oil or water.
A doctor may vacuum the earwax or scrape it off the outer ear using appropriate tools. The Mayo Clinic advises individuals who experience an earwax blockage to see a doctor. Symptoms of earwax build-up that warrant medical attention include earache, ear noise, diminished hearing and a sense of fullness in the affected ear. Seeing a doctor is recommended because a self-diagnosis is impractical; there is always the chance that an underlying problem other than earwax is the cause of the hearing obstruction.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, many doctors advise against the use of cotton swabs or ear candling to remove earwax. The waxy substance is actually beneficial; it captures dirt, bacteria, bugs and other debris and ferries it out of the ear. Thus, earwax is completely normal and is not a health problem unless it causes bothersome symptoms. Additionally, earwax is not a personal hygiene issue.